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Divorce issues for pet owners

Friday, September 22, 2017

People who own pets generally do not think of them as property, but rather as members of the family. Sadly, Texas residents know this is an opinion not shared by the courts, which view pets as inanimate property. Of the many divorce issues faced by couples who are choosing to end their marriages, the problem of pet ownership can be one of the more convoluted. 

Since pets are considered assets, they are subject to the same laws that govern homes, cars and other physical assets. Here in Texas, which is an equitable distribution state, assets are divided fairly (but not necessarily equally) by the court. This means a pet purchased during the marriage may be awarded to one or the other spouse without the need for a sale. A pet purchased by one spouse prior to the marriage would revert in ownership to that spouse. 

To combat this, some couples have agreed to treat pet ownership much like child custody. A pet's time may be split evenly between the couple, or one spouse might take a pet on the weekends and so on. Of course, issues of pet upkeep costs must also be addressed, including veterinary fees and grooming. 

Texas pet owners understand how fundamental a pet can become to both members of a divorcing couple. As divorce issues go, this is one of the more complicated since the court does not recognize pets as living creatures or family members. However, it is possible for couples to seek out support in coming up with a fair and equal way to retain joint ownership of a beloved pet even in the face of a separation.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Divorce Confidential: Crafting a Creative Pet Parenting Plan", Caroline Choi, Nov. 19, 2014

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