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More states deciding fate of pets in divorce


While not on the same par as a child custody battle, for many couples, deciding who gets the pet may be nearly as upsetting. Pets are frequently the source of emotional support and an intangible security that may be a devastating loss following a divorce. Although Texas has not yet passed laws regarding the assignment of pets at the end of a marriage, other states are finding it necessary to address the issue head-on.

In most states, pets are considered property. This means that they are counted among the items to be divided in a divorce settlement based on their monetary value, not the level of affection with which they are held. This can be a difficult and frustrating concept for someone who loves a pet, and it is common for vindictive spouses to inflict pain by demanding the pet in a divorce settlement.

States that give special consideration to pets in divorce proceedings do not call them custody hearings. Possession of the pet is typically based on which spouse is financially better able to support the animal, as well as which spouse provides the most care and attention. Courts prefer couples to come to an arrangement for sharing the pet so the court does not have to, and even in states where no laws exist on the matter, individual judges may give special consideration to pets in dispute.

Losing a pet, even through divorce, is not a frivolous matter for many people. It can be a painful experience that is not easily resolved. As long as Texas courts do not give specific attention to pets when settling property division between couples, it will be up to those wishing to retain the rights to pet ownership to seek legal guidance to help them in their fight for their beloved pets.

Source:, “Divorce and the family pet“, Lacey Clifton, Jan. 17, 2018

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