Terry L. Hart, Attorney at Law
713-581-1773

Pet custody disputes increase among divorcing couples

One of the most difficult parts of a divorce when a couple has children can be coming up with a parenting plan that is fair to both parents, and of course, is in the best interests of the child. But what happens when that "child" is a four-legged furball? Divorcing couples in Texas often find themselves fighting over man's best friend, arguing over who gets to keep the family pet.

A 2014 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reports that pet custody cases increased by 27%, and approximately 88% of them involved a dog. Some experts say that many people are forgoing having children and purchasing a home, and instead are focusing all their attention on their pets.

In many states, including Texas, pets are generally considered personal property and treated as such during the divorce process. However, some states have adopted new pet custody laws that encourage judges to treat pets more like children by considering the animal's best interests and looking at which party is primarily responsible for taking care of the pet.

In Texas, if the pet was purchased during the marriage, it is considered community property and the judge will have to look at various factors to determine which party would be a better caretaker for the animal.

As for visitation, things become much easier when couples can work out an agreement on their own to determine when each person gets to see the pet. A judge handling a divorce case may be much more likely to approve the terms of an agreement the couple negotiated together, rather than create a visitation schedule for the pet as they would for human children. Pet prenuptial agreements detailing where the pet would go should the couple's relationship end can also be helpful, if the time comes.

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Terry L. Hart, Attorney at Law
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Houston, TX 77027

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