The Houston Family Law Blog

Battling Over Pet Custody

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In the case of a divorce or legal separation, Texas animal lovers often have one big question on their mind: "who gets custody of the pets?"

The answer is often debated about between Texas family law attorneys, because unfortunately a judge doesn't usually consider the pet's best interest when deciding who gets the pet. Unlike child custody, animals in Texas are simply treated as property under the law, according to CNN. Like books, electronics or family heirlooms, the pet will be awarded to the person who officially has property rights to the animal. Who paid for the pet? If the animal was adopted, who paid the adoption fees? CNN states that the answers to these questions usually define the ownership.

This doesn't mean that one party will necessarily hand over the pet with ease. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports that in 2001, Lynn Goldstein was sentenced to 30 days in jail for refusing several orders from a judge to turn over the two cats her ex was awarded in their divorce. While this may seem like an extreme situation, Texas family law attorneys say that there are some options couples can take to prevent this type of drama from happening. CNN recommends that couples establish pet prenup; which will lay out in writing what exactly happens to a pet in the case of a split. While a pet prenup may seem a bit far fetched for some couples, it gives a guide for what happens in a worst-case scenario.

Yet FindLaw states that new laws are now coming about across the nation that treat pets more like children as opposed to property. It may not be long before we see Texas courts grant visitation or joint custody rights to a dog. This idea may complicate things in courts, but perhaps it's more fair.

Related Resources:

  • Custody of Barney, the Dog (FindLaw)
  • How Are Pets Treated in Divorce Proceedings (Chicago Family Law blog)
  • Factors Considered in Dividing Property (FindLaw)
  • Contact Texas Family Law Attorneys (FindLaw)

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