Custody of dogs and cats in Texas divorce and family law cases is a property division matter. The Texas Family Code does not allow pet custody per se. Pet law is an emerging subsection of family law in some states where child custody laws are similarly applied to family pets. Even though you are not going to have a pet custody hearing at the Collin County Courthouse, families in the Plano and Frisco areas may still fight for possession of a beloved dog, cat, fish, bird or whatever pet is at issue in the divorce. Animal lovers will and do go to great lengths to keep their favorite pet in their possession. Hearings and trials certainly may involve pet possession.
Texas law considers pets to be property subject to division in divorce.
Animal lovers going through a divorce might turn to their relationship with a family pet and determine to have the dog or cat with them no matter what the time and cost of a battle. In the Texas Family Code, the community property of the marriage and the judge can award the pet to you or your spouse unless you can establish the pet is your separate property.
There are several factors a court may consider regarding the custody of dogs and cats as in Texas divorce cases as separate property. You would need to prove that (1) you owned the pet prior to being married, or (2) you received the pet as a gift, separate of your spouse, during the marriage; or (3) you received the pet through a will, trust or similar inheritance.
Can you still ask to see the dog or get visitation rights?
If you can enter into an agreement to share a boat, maybe you could share time with a pet as well. If there are children involved in divorce proceedings, it might be a good idea to agree to see the dog or cat when you have periods of possession and access of the children. Of course, it all depends on whether the pet appreciates travel. Asking the court to order rights to visit a pet is not something many Texas judges allow because there is no legal authority in Texas to order pet custody and visitation rights.
You may be ordered by the court to turn the leash over to your soon to be ex-spouse.
If you and your soon to be former spouse cannot agree to who gets the family pets at issue, the court will make a ruling if at the temporary orders hearing or at a later hearing or final trial. Failing to turn over the animal can be meet with the same consequences of not turning over the keys to the house, car or boat. The other party can enforce the agreement of the parties or the order of the court with the penalty of contempt, which can involve fines, jail time and other penalties.
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