An unpleasant realization that families facing divorce have to come to is that their sweet little dog, cat, or other pet is not actually the member of the family that we sometimes will believe that they are. Despite our emotional attachments that we have with our animals the fact remains that they are in fact property owned by the family.
So your pet would fall under the same general category as your bank accounts, lawn mower and silverware. If this sounds harsh it is not intended to be, but I do mean to make a point of sorts.
My point right off the bat in this blog post is that the above is all true if you and your spouse cannot come to an agreement on what to do with the family pet then a judge will make that decision for you. That decision will be based on the laws associated with community and separate property in Texas and not on what will necessarily be in the best interests of your family or what is in the best interests of the pet.
If you can do anything to avoid having to go court on the issue of your family bet my advice would be to work with your ex spouse to come up with some agreement to take that decision out of the judge’s hands. For now, let’s breakdown how pets are handled in Texas divorces.
In what way is your pet a piece of property?
Animals are looked at as property in Texas, as we discussed at the outset of this blog post. As such, your trial court will use the laws in Texas associated with community property and apply them towards your family’s particular set of circumstances.
A fair and equitable method of dividing the property will be attempted by your judge but this does not mean that the judge will be able to find a perfect middle ground on which to do so.
How will the court make a decision and what factors will the decision be based on?
Since the piece of property we are discussing is a living, breathing thing a judge will likely look at which spouse has typically been the one to feed and care for the dog during its life. If both spouses love little Fido, but you are the spouse who buys the food, feeds the dog each day and then takes time off of work to take the dog to the veterinarian you may have a leg up on your spouse in terms of being able to keep the dog in your new home.
The other main factor that judges would utilize to make a decision would be to look at the living situation of both you and your spouse after the divorce is finalized. If one of you is remaining in the family home and the other is moving into an apartment then your judge may want to allow the spouse who remains in the home to keep the dog.
Another important factor to consider in terms of home-life is which spouse has primary conservatorship of the children. If the children have strong relationships with the pet that may end up tipping the scale in favor of the parent with whom the children spend more time with.
Not so fast- what if you (or your spouse) owned the pet prior to your marriage?
The above analysis may be rendered moot if you or your spouse are able to show that either one of you owned the pet before you were married. This is important because property owned prior to the beginning of your marriage by either spouse means that it is someone’s individual separate property. Likewise, if the pet was a gift made specifically to you or your spouse as individuals during the marriage or was the part of someone’s will and became yours or your spouse’s as a result, then these situations as well can offer opportunities for the best to be classified as your or your spouse’s separate property.
Testimony in a trial may alone be enough to help the judge to determine whether the pet should be considered community or separate property but providing documentary evidence is always helpful. A sales receipt from the shelter, breeder or other prior home of the pet would be able to show the judge specifically when the dog came into possession of either you or your spouse.
What if the value of the pet is significant?
If you and your spouse have an animal that has a significant value attached to it, as with a race horse or some other highly valuable piece of property, then it becomes increasingly likely that a court will evaluate it almost in the same way as a piece of expensive artwork or valuable good. The best case scenario is to have you and your spouse put your heads together to figure out a solution that you both can live with- whether it is sharing responsibility/ownership in some way and then ultimately agreeing to split any profits made from the sale of the animal.
Some cases have seen spouses agree to a visitation schedule almost identical to the one that is being used for their children. If no agreement can be reached, however, it is likely that a judge will not act as delicately and will instead order the animal to be sold almost immediately and the profit divided up between the spouses however he or she sees fit.
Additional questions on family pets in a divorce? Contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan
A divorce is an emotionally difficult time to get through as it is and adding a family pet into the equation makes it difficult even more-so. If after reading this blog posts you have additional questions on how pets are treated in divorces in Texas please contact the Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC today. One of our licensed family law attorneys is available to meet with you six days a week to answer questions, hear your concerns and talk to you about what services our office can provide you with.
If you want to know more about what you can do, CLICK the button below to get your FREE E-book: “16 Steps to Help You Plan & Prepare for Your Texas Divorce”
Other Articles you may be interested in:
- Family Pets in Texas Divorces
- Pet Custody and other Considerations in a Texas Divorce?
- Who gets the Family Pet in a Divorce in Texas?
- Dividing Property in a Texas Divorce - The Just and Right Division
- Why is Separate Property Important and How to Keep it Separate in a Texas Divorce?
- What Wikipedia Can’t Tell you About Texas Divorce and Marital Property Division
- Texas Divorce Property Division Enforcement
- Separate Property in a Texas Divorce?
- Does it Matter Whose Name is on Title or Deed of Property in a Divorce in Texas?
- Is Social Security Considered Separate Property in a Texas Divorce
- Business Owners and Business Assets in a Texas Divorce
Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC | Kingwood Divorce Lawyer
The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC routinely handles matters that affect children and families. If you have questions regarding divorce, it's important to speak with ar Kingwood, TX Divorce Lawyer right away to protect your rights.
A divorce lawyer in Kingwood TX is skilled at listening to your goals during this trying process and developing a strategy to meet those goals. Contact Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC by calling (281) 810-9760 or submit your contact information in our online form. The Law Office of Bryan Fagan, PLLC handles Divorce cases in Spring, Texas, Cypress, Spring, Klein, Humble, Kingwood, Tomball, The Woodlands, Houston, the FM 1960 area, or surrounding areas, including Harris County, Montgomery County, Liberty County, Chambers County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County and Waller County.