Who Gets Custody of the Pets in a Divorce? A Texas Divorce Attorney Helps Explain.

What Happens to Pets During a Divorce?

People do not go into marriage believing that this union will end in divorce, but many marriages do, unfortunately, end in divorce. During a divorce two individuals who have been together must now divide everything they have accumulated during their marriage. It could involve the division financial obligations, as well as assets. If children are involved the complexities of the divorce increase. In addition to this, many people feel their pets are members of their family, but in the eyes of the law, they are property. The division of pets is handled with the same rules as property division. As you can see divorce is a very, very complex legal situation and retaining the services of an experienced Texas divorce attorney is paramount to having a positive outcome for yourself.

Who Gets Custody of the Pets in a Divorce?

Property Division

In Texas, property division involves dividing all the property a couple accumulated during the time of their marriage. Texas is a community property state. This means any property spouses acquire during their marriage is deemed to belong equally to each of them. Community property could be split on a 50-50 basis. This is what often happens unless a convincing argument can be made that shows another type of arrangement would be fairer. So if a couple acquires a family pet during the marriage and neither of the spouses are willing to give up the family pet, it is important to have an experienced divorce attorney on your side to fight for your rights.

Separate Property

In Texas, there are some exceptions to the general rule everything accumulated by a couple during their marriage is community property. In certain situations, this property could be considered separate property. This is property that legally only belongs to one spouse and is not subject to community property laws. This is property spouses had prior to their marriage as well as from other things like an inheritance and more. So if one of the spouses had the family pet prior to the marriage it would be considered separate property.

Facts Of Ownership

During a divorce, a court will look at all the facts of ownership when determining which spouse will be given the family pet. Should one spouse have owned the pet prior to the marriage, they will be entitled to the pet. This may not be the case if the pet was purchased as a present for a spouse. A spouse will be awarded a pet if they received it as part of an inheritance. As you can see there are many different aspects in determining pet ownership during a divorce, which means having a divorce attorney on your side providing legal advice is the best course of action.

Emotional Ties

Many couples who divorce have deep emotional ties with their pets. Unfortunately, these emotional ties will not influence a court’s decision when it comes to the division of property. A Texas court will not work to create any type of pet visitation schedules. If this happens, it will be something the spouses agree to without involvement from the court.


If a couple is unable to agree about different aspects of their divorce, including property division involving their pets, a Texas divorce attorney may recommend they consider mediation. This is when a couple meets with an experienced mediator who has been approved by the court. The decision of a mediator is not binding. They will listen to both sides of the divorce, and then provide their opinion on different aspects of a couple’s divorce. It is up to the couple to accept the mediator’s decision or reject it.

Marriage Agreements

Some Texas couples who divorce have avoided problems determining who gets a family pet because they had a prenuptial or a postnuptial agreement in place. A prenuptial agreement is an agreement between couples they sign before their marriage. It will list how property in the marriage will be divided if the couple divorces. A similar agreement can be signed by couples after they get married. It is known as a postnuptial agreement.


In some situations, couples have agreed to co-own the pet on an ongoing basis. They agree to share equally in the care and expenses involved with the pet. These couples devise their own custody schedule. In other situations, one spouse has offered to give up some other type of property, so they can keep the family pet.

A Texas divorce attorney can help a spouse make the best possible case to the court when they are trying to obtain custody of a family pet. Documenting the amount of time spent with the pet and what is done during this time is good. Details of walking a dog, caring for it, playing with the pet is important. Videos, witness statements and more could help influence a court’s decision. They could be a significant factor regarding awarding a pet to one spouse over the other in a divorce.

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