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Divorce and pet custody

There are many Texas married couples in Texas that own cats or dogs. In fact, a survey by the American Pet Products Association found that about two-thirds of U.S. households have a pet. When a couple goes through a divorce, pet custody can be one of the most important negotiation topics.

Although pet owners know that animals can become important members of a family, pets are not treated like people in divorce cases. Unlike a child custody decision, a judge will usually not decide who gets to keep the family dog based on its best interests. All animals are treated like personal property in divorce cases, regardless of emotional attachments. If a judge must make a decision about who gets to keep a pet, the pet will often be awarded to the spouse who purchased or adopted it or paid for its care.

Some people wish to share custody of their pets after a divorce. Although shared pet custody arrangements can be negotiated between spouses privately, the arrangements may not be legally enforceable. Some judges have held special hearings over pet custody disputes, but they have stopped short of treating pets like children. In one of those cases, a New York judge agreed that a miniature dachshund was 'decidedly more than a piece of property." However, the judge would not order a joint custody arrangement for the dog.

A person who is going through a divorce will often have the guidance of a family law attorney throughout the process. One thing the attorney could suggest is a negotiated plan that would give the person who is not keeping the animal some rights of visitation.

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