Courts in Texas and around the country have traditionally viewed family pets as personal property in divorce cases. However, many couples consider their pets as family members. As a result, instead of awarding ownership to whoever is listed as the owner on the animal’s registration or license, courts in some states are basing their rulings on the best interests of the pets.
One factor that is considered is which spouse takes care of the family animals on a day-by-day basis. This includes who feeds them the most, makes sure that they have water, takes them for walks or cleans the litter boxes more often, and who gives them the most affection.
The amount of time that the spouse can spend with the pets is also a factor. If one of the individuals works longer hours than the other, a divorce attorney could argue that the individual who works less hours has more time to spend with the pets. Which party has the financial means to care for the pets is considered as well. Taking pets to the vet can become expensive, and some pets have special needs such as medication or food requirements.
Some other things that are considered are how much space each party will have for the pets following the divorce and who had the pets before the marriage began. Additionally, the relationship between the couple’s children and the pets could impact the arrangements.
This approach is somewhat akin to how courts resolve child custody matters, as they consider what would be best for the pet rather than proceeding under traditional property division rules. A pet owner who is facing a divorce may want to speak with a family law attorney about the best way to handle this issue.