In Texas, pets are still considered property. Even though a lot of people treat their pets like their children or family. Texas does not yet recognize this distinction. So, what does that mean if you are getting a divorce? Who gets the dog in a Texas divorce?
Community Property or Separate Property?
The first thing we look at is when was the pet was adopted or purchased. This is because the court needs to determine whether the pet is separate property or community property. If the pet was purchased or adopted prior to the marriage, the pet is most likely going to be the separate property of the party that purchased or adopted the pet.
However, if the pet was adopted during the marriage, then the pet is most likely going to be a community property asset. What that means is that the pet is subject to division by the family court in the divorce. Of course, that doesn’t mean that the court is going to physically divide the pet. It does mean that the pet will be assigned a value and someone will be awarded the pet by the court. Once awarded the pet, that pet will be the property of that spouse after the divorce. That will be the spouse who gets the dog in a Texas divorce.
Texas courts are not necessarily going to do a determination of what is in the best interests of the pet in making this determination. However, some states are starting to look at pets as more than property and will look at the best interests of the pet or who the pet is best suited to be with – much more like a child custody analysis.
Is Pet Visitation Possible?
That brings us to the next question people sometimes ask: Can we have a visitation schedule with the pet. We understand – just because you are getting a divorce does not mean that you don’t want to see the pet that you and your spouse adopted during the marriage. Texas is not currently a state where a court will give you a visitation schedule with a pet. However, that does not mean that you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement to include a visitation schedule for your pet.
It is possible that Texas courts will change the way that they deal with pets in the future, but for now, the courts will only be dealing with whether the pet is separate property or community and then awarding that pet to one party or another. It seems fitting that people often treat their pets like children, so we anticipate seeing more and more people including custody arrangements for pets in the future. These agreements can also be dealt with in a prenuptial or post nuptial agreement if the parties wish to include them. For now, the family pet may be property to the Courts in a Houston divorce, but we all know that pets are way more than property.
For more information about dealing with pet issues in your divorce case, call Diana Larson or Erik Larson at 713.221.9088