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Dog ownership a matter of division of property

Sunday, September 24, 2017

An unusual case has highlighted how pets are handled by American courts when couples divorce. The case of Pepper the dog has attracted attention from across the nation, so residents here in Texas may already be aware of this strange story. A man is seeking visitation rights of the family dog after he and his wife divorced, but the courts are calling the issue a question of division of property.

The couple entered the divorce process roughly two years ago, which is when the battle over the dog began. Since then, the dog had been remanded to the custody of the woman, during which time the man allegedly stole onto her property to "kidnap" the animal. He has since been hit with a court order to stay off the property on pain of arrest and Pepper has been returned to the woman.

The man has consistently fought for what he is calling "visitation rights," though the recent issue with the alleged kidnapping has prompted local courts to turn down deliberation when a court order of protection is in place. Most courts in America do not consider animals to be anything more than property to be awarded to one or the other partner in a divorce, so the man may face an uphill battle if he wishes to split time with the dog with his former wife. However, this does highlight a change in attitudes towards pets, which may one day influence a change in divorce legislation.

Division of property can be one of the most contentious parts of a divorce, particularly when that property has fur and four legs. Texas residents facing a divorce where pets will be on the list of property to be divided are encouraged to learn more about the property division process in this state. This can help avoid arduous and drawn-out divorce cases like the one reported here.

Source: suntimes.com, "Pepper the pooch is the focus of a divorce dispute", Stefano Esposito, July 21, 2014

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