Divorce attorneys typically find the most challenging part of the termination of any marriage termination to be decisions about child custody and the separation of property.

Yet for many families, these emotional circumstances also concern pets, not just children, material items, and wealth.

Deciding who gets the pets can be just as difficult for divorce lawyers and their clients as deciding on child custody.

What can make pet custody decisions even harder is how the laws in Texas are written pertaining to pets.

Pets Are Personal Property in Texas

Although your family may consider your pet to be another member of the family, divorce attorneys must point out that according to the Texas Family Law code, pets are considered to be personal property that is subject to division between the spouses when a marriage is ended.

This means that one spouse will be awarded legal ownership of any pets, just like any other material possession.

If the pet was already owned by one spouse when the marriage took place, the pet would usually be awarded to that spouse.

If the pet came into the family during the marriage, a decision on who will keep the pets must be made.

Unfortunately, as most divorce lawyers who have dealt with pet-owning families can attest, agreeing to who will take the pets can be a great source of contention.

Pet Custody Decisions Require Special Consideration

Because deciding who gets custody of family pets is a more emotional consideration than that concerning physical items, spouses working with divorce attorneys do have a few options:

  • Mutual Agreement - Of course the best option is for you to come to an agreement on who will claim ownership or even co-ownership, which the court will include in your divorce decree. If necessary, you can even plan a visitation schedule just like visitation with children. Agreeing on who gets the pets is the most favorable choice.
  • Exchange for Property - Another option is for one spouse to give up some property during the division of property in exchange for custody of the family pet. The biggest challenge that divorce attorneys encounter with this choice is putting a dollar value on the animal in order to determine how much property should be exchanged.
  • Court Decision - If neither of these options work and you or your spouse are unable to agree on who should assume ownership of a family pet, divorce lawyers may suggest either mediation or allowing a judge to make the decision. In either case, a number of considerations are made. Even though one spouse may have paid for the animal and its care, divorce attorneys may bring arguments based on the pet's emotional attachment and bonding to one person over another may be considered. This can happen in particular when that person is a child in the family. Living situations, finances, previous caretaking, and other details can all come into consideration.

As it is with children, the goal is always to place the pet in the situation that is best for its well-being.

In some cases, that may not be with the spouse who actually paid for the animal.

Many judges even favor assigning pet custody and visitation alongside child custody and visitation so the pet stays with the kids.

Most divorce lawyers agree that their clients consider pets to be another member of the family and not just a material possession.

Deciding who keeps the pets and is awarded “pet custody” can be just as emotional and challenging as deciding on child custody.

Some Final Thoughts

The best advice that divorce attorneys can offer on pet custody decisions without involving the court is to reach an agreement you both can live with.

If you can't easily agree, consider the same factors that a judge would and try to compromise.

Co-ownership, visitation rights, and child custody decisions should all be considered as favorable solutions to pet custody disputes!

Garza & Elizondo, LLP

Downtown Brownsville
Principal Office
680 East St. Charles St, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520
(956) 202-0067

North Brownsville
Meetings With Attorneys By Appointment Only
1393 East Alton Gloor Blvd, Suite 12
Brownsville TX 78526
(956) 202-0067

San Benito
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2395 La Palma Street, Suite A
San Benito TX 78586

(956) 202-0067