Family Pets and Divorce
The problem with who gets the family pets in a divorce was highlighted a few years ago. A couple with three dogs, two cats, and a rabbit got divorced. The animals, according to Texas law, were just pieces of property owned jointly by the couple. Since Texas is a community property state, the animals were divided between the couple just like all of their other property. The dogs were given to the wife and the cats to the husband. The rabbit died during the divorce proceedings. The wife dug in her heels and refused to turn the cats over to her ex-husband. On seven different occasions, she showed up in court and told the judge that the cats had run away. Ultimately, she was caught hiding the cats and was sentenced to 30 days in jail for contempt of court. She also was forced to turn the cats over to her ex.
What Happens to Pets in a Texas Divorce?
If you and your spouse can work out arrangements where you will share your pets and alternate times the pets spend with each of you, the court will honor your agreement and include it in the final divorce decree so it becomes an enforceable order. You should try to work with your spouse as much as you can if you both love your pet(s) and/or you have small children that are attached to the pet(s). If your children are especially fond of the pet(s), you should consider allowing the pets to live in the same household as the child.
If you cannot agree, the pets will be treated the same as any other property, like your couch or your car. A skilled family law attorney may be able to help you prove that the pets are your separate property based on your purchase of the pet and being the primary caregiver, dog-walker, feeder and the one who always takes the pet(s) to the vet for routine care, etc.