Texas courts don’t treat pet custody entirely the same way as child custody. Although there are some protections in place, the court has restrictions on what it can do.
Pets are property under the law
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that pets are property. Thus, pets are one aspect of property and asset division in Texas. If you owned the pet before you got married, then you’ll likely get to keep them after your divorce because they are your personal property.
Neglect and abuse
Although pets are personal property under law, the judicial system will still ensure that they don’t go to someone who neglects or abuses them. As with issues of child abuse and domestic violence, you’ll need evidence to back up any claims.
Roles and attachment
When determining who gets the pet in a Texas divorce, the judge evaluates the roles that each person has in taking care of the pet. The spouse who has more responsibility in caring for the pet has a greater chance of receiving custody over them. Judges also consider the emotional attachment that each spouse has to the animal. If you were the one to obtain the pet on your own during the marriage, this could lean the decision in your favor.
If you have more than one pet with your spouse, then the court will prefer to divide the pets between both of you. The type of pets you have could influence who gets custody. Dogs, for instance, require more attention than cats. A person who works fewer hours is more likely to receive custody of a dog while the cat may go to the busier spouse.
Negotiation with your spouse
In the ideal scenario, you will be able to come to an agreement with your spouse on who gets the pets. If both of you are very attached, you could consider setting up a visitation schedule or agreeing to 50/50 custody in which the pets take turns living with you and their other owner. You should hire a mediator to help you negotiate pet custody and other aspects of your divorce. They may help keep the conversation peaceful and suggest ideas.
Determining who gets the pet in a Texas divorce has similarities to child custody. The court will consider the primary caretaker and emotional attachment of each spouse.