When couples in Texas decide to divorce, they might struggle vigorously over sentimental items of property. For many pet owners, however, their animals are more than property, even if that is how they are understood in the law. "Pet custody" is increasingly becoming a part of divorce settlements as spouses determine how to negotiate their future arrangements for their dogs and cats. Animal custody is sometimes worked out to coincide with child custody schedules, but it can be handled on its own as part of the divorce agreement as well. Due to the important role that pets play in many people's lives, many spouses are thinking more about how to keep their bond with their animals even after a human romantic relationship ends.
Courts in some states are adjusting their traditional approach to pets to recognize that they are a unique type of property. In California, courts can make custody determinations for animals when the spouses do not reach their own agreement through divorce negotiations. In New Jersey, while pets are considered personal property, they are also understood to have a special sentimental value, and courts can issue shared possession orders. They can also hold hearings to assess both parties' level of attachment to the animal if there is a dispute about pet ownership.
In some cases, pet owners considering marriage may want to include a provision about their pets as part of a prenuptial agreement. With a prenup, spouses-to-be can determine who is the legal owner of the pet in case of a later divorce or dispute. Determining pet custody may be an emotional priority for many people.
Spouses who are considering divorce may be concerned about how to share time with a beloved pet. A family law attorney can provide advice and guidance in negotiating a fair property division settlement that includes provisions for pets.