We consider our furry friends to be beloved members of our family. That's why it's no surprise that the question of custody of the family pet(s) can lead to some heated disagreements before, during and after a divorce. Here's some information that may help you, and your furry friend, when it comes to pet custody in Texas.
Pets = Property
Legally speaking in the state of Texas, pets are considered property. Since Texas is a community property state, pets that are acquired by either spouse during the marriage is generally presumed to belong to both spouses equally. If you prove that you acquired your pet(s) before the marriage or received an animal as a gift, it would be considered separate property and would solely belong to you after the divorce.
So where does that leave your furry friend? If your pet does not arguably qualify as your own separate property, you have a few potential options. It is possible to co-own a pet on an ongoing basis with your ex-spouse by providing provisions related to care expenses for the animal and developing a custody schedule. Typically, this option is seen as ideal for couples that share children together that would like to keep a sense of normalcy in the relationship.
You may also try negotiations or settlements in order to keep custody of your pet. Consider giving up some other type of property or negotiating a visitation schedule in order to secure full ownership of the pet. Although a pet visitation schedule cannot be specifically enforced by a judge, they can enforce any agreements you and your ex-spouse agree upon.
If your pet does not qualify as separate property and you are unable to come to some sort of agreement with your spouse, you can always ask the court to make a decision as to what will become of your pet after the divorce.
How A Judge Determines Pet Custody
If you and your ex cannot come to an agreement about the four-legged members of your family, a Judge will determine who gets custody. Judges consider several factors when it comes to pet custody, including,
Which spouse has played the role of primary caretaker
Who has been meeting the daily needs of the pet(s)
Has either spouse neglected the animal/s in any way
What are each party’s typical work and travel schedules and which is more beneficial to the animal(s)
Typically, pets are placed in the environment that best meets their needs. For example, Dogs are typically placed with the spouse that is able to be home more while cats and/or reptiles, such as lizards and snakes, can be placed with spouses that work or travel outside of the home more often than the other.
How To Protect Your Pet Custody
It may not seem like you need to, but protecting your pets custody before marriage is never a bad idea. Consider using agreements, such as a prenuptial agreement, to outline your wishes for your pet(s) if divorce is ever considered. If you don’t have agreements in place, you need to gather evidence to prove why you should have continued custody of the animal and/or evidence that you are the animals sole owner. Evidence can include:
A pet license or adoption application with your signature
An affidavit from your veterinarian that states you are the person who tends to the pet’s medical needs
Receipts from pet supply stores, grooming, and other pet services with your payment information.
Witness statements from neighbors, other dog-park visitors, or friends who can speak to your dedication to your pet’s care and wellbeing.
Pictures or documentation proving the animal was a gift and should not be considered community property.
While a judge will have the final say, a legal agreement and ownership documentation can help ensure you maintain custody of your furry friend(s) should your marriage dissolve.
Your pet can help you through the tough times divorce brings, and so can using a family lawyer you can trust. C. Y. Lee Legal Group, PLLC can help you when it comes to the custody of your furry family member. Call us today at (832) 838-1743 or Click here to set up an appointment.