Several years ago, a couple with three dogs, two cats, and a rabbit filed for divorce. According to Texas law, the animals were pieces of property owned jointly by the couple, and since Texas is a community property state, the animals were divided between the couple just like all other assets in the marital estate; the dogs were given to the wife and the cats to the husband. The rabbit died during the divorce proceedings. When it came time for the animals to move to their respective homes, the wife refused to turn the cats over to her ex-husband. On seven different occasions, she appeared in court and told the judge the cats ran away. The court then discovered she had been hiding the cats, sentenced her to 30 days in jail for contempt of court, and forced her to turn the cats over to her ex.
What Happens to Pets in a Texas Divorce?
In Texas, pets are treated similarly to property. Generally, spouses will decide among themselves where family pets will live following separation. In some cases, courts may formalize an agreed pet “possession” schedule through inclusion in a final divorce decree. When faced with disagreement, courts will treat pets identically to any other property. If a pet was acquired before marriage, it may be deemed separate property. Otherwise, a judge will award pets based on monetary and sentimental value. A skilled, family law attorney may be able to help you prove that the pets are your separate property.
Learn more about property division by downloading our guide to Texas Marital Property Law