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What happens to the family pet during a divorce?

Relationships dissolve for many reasons. When a couple reaches the decision to seek a divorce, understanding how property amassed during the marriage will be distributed can often throw a calm and amicable separation into an emotionally heated debate about who gets what. This can include the family pet that many Texas residents consider a member of the family. With the recent surge in pet custody issues, many soon-to-be divorced couples want to know what will happen to the beloved family pet.

The issue regarding pet ownership after a divorce can be confusing, as pets are considered property in family court. Property is usually divided between both parties. A pet custody agreement may not have any weight in relation to the division of marital assets, even though many couples see the family pet as a child, especially if there are no children or no other pets.

Few laws exist to assist the courts in deciding protocol for such an issue. A judge may ask the couple to decide the fate of the furry friend between themselves. The court could decide to consider some factors that would be similar to that of deciding the custody of a child. In those circumstances, a determination may be made based upon who spends most of his or her time with the pet, if children are involved in the divorce and whether one party had ownership of the pet prior to marriage.

A divorce is often an emotional roller coaster and, in many cases, may involve the family pet. Regardless of how vested and attached both parties may be to the animal, it is seen as marital property and treated as such. The issue may be addressed by a court, but there is no guarantee. Another option is agreeing to submit the issue to mediation. Seeking the assistance of an experienced Texas attorney can help one to ensure that all marital property is cataloged prior the division of assets, and this may include the family pet.

Source: tctimes.com, "Fighting over Fido", Vera Hogan, March 9, 2018

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