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Should pets be part of property division in a Texas divorce?

A survey in February showed that there is an increasing number of divorce cases that involve pet custody issues. Pet owners in Texas and other states seem to be unhappy about the way most courts classify their beloved pets as part of community property and deal with it as part of property division. Many couples would prefer their pets to be treated as children, and they expect the court to consider the best interests of the pets.

A divorcing couple in another state is locked in a battle over their dog, but the judge will deal with it during their divorce trial when other assets such as kitchen appliances and golf clubs are divided. The couple reportedly selected the puppy from a litter in 2005, and it regularly went on walks with the husband and even joined him on business trips. He said that, after the marriage had failed, he relocated in 2012 and expected to work out a visitation plan with his wife.

However, his wife apparently believed that moving between two homes would be upsetting for the dog. She asserts that her soon-to-be ex-husband uses the dog to avoid losing contact with her and to prolong the divorce litigation. She currently has a protection order against her husband, and the judge declined to hear his pleas related to dog custody.

Couples in Texas who own pets and are considering divorce may benefit from resolving the issue before going to court. If they find it impossible to reach an agreement through communication and compromise, they may want to consider the services of an independent mediator for assistance in working out a visitation plan. By couples utilizing the available help, they may avoid their pets being treated as part of their assets during the property division process in court.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "Divorcing couple struggles with pet custody", Vikki Ortiz Healy, July 16, 2014

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