Texas Family Law Attorney Talks about Pets and Your Divorce

Most couples and families regard their pets as members of the family. We take them with us on adventures, we curl up with them on the couch, we play with them, and we love them in so many ways. In return, they love us faithfully and bring so much joy into our lives. When a couple who has pets divorces, they will need to decide how they will handle the care and company of their pets.

A recent change to the divorce laws in Alaska requires courts to consider the “well-being of the animal” in divorce cases where custody of a pet is contested. The change went into effect this past January, and it makes Alaska the first state to require that courts address the needs of an animal when they make decisions about how they will assign ownership of that animal in a divorce case. The law permits courts to assign ownership of an animal to one party or the other or to order joint custody in situations where the well-being of the animal would be served best by that arrangement.

Most states, including Texas, treat animals as personal property. When a couple divorces, the issue of who will get to keep which animals gets addressed in the property settlement portion of the divorce proceedings. Even though animals are considered property under the law, divorcing couples who have pets are free to make agreements about how they want to handle issues associated with pet care and ownership.

If you have pets and you are divorcing, you might already be aware that your pets will experience your divorce on both a physical level and an emotional level. You and your pet may both already be experiencing feelings associated with the change in the amount of time that you spend together if that has already changed for you. These feelings, along with the fact that pets who spend time with each of their “people” adjust more easily to their new lifestyle, are good reasons to do your best to work things out with your spouse as far as agreeing to a schedule for pet care and making an agreement about pet-related expenses. Any agreement that the two of you create on your own will serve your needs and the needs of your pets much better than a judge-designed court order can because the court will simply consider the pets as property and distribute them as part of your property agreement.

If you have pets and you are getting divorced, be sure to take the time to talk about your pets with your spouse. Pets can be treated more like family members and less like property when a divorcing couple makes an agreement regarding their care and custody instead of leaving the matter of their disposition to a judge. If you have questions about how to address the needs of your pets in your Texas divorce, please contact Texas Family Law Attorney Alex Tyra at (903) 753-7499 to schedule a consultation. Alternatively, you may visit us online and submit a convenient online contact form.

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