The dog days of a Texas divorce: Resolving pet custody

For many Texas spouses who are divorcing, the list of issues that must be addressed during the process can feel overwhelming. Priorities are different in every family, and what seems like a minor item to one couple can become the central focus of negotiations between another. Pet custody is an example; while some couples will quickly agree on where the family pets should live after the divorce is final, others will litigate the matter at a very high financial and emotional cost.

When making decisions concerning the family pets, it is important for both parties to be reasonable and logical about what is best for the animals. Circumstances change after a divorce, and in many cases, the living arrangements of one or both parties will be drastically altered. Whereas the family dog may have enjoyed a large backyard and lots of attention while the family was intact, after the divorce one or both parties may end up in cramped living quarters, at least for the short term.

In addition, if there are children involved, it is important to consider how bonded they are with the family pet. In cases where the kids spend a lot of time caring for a pet and giving it affection, sending the animal to live with the non-custodial parent may be detrimental to both the animal and the children. In some cases, it is possible to work out a solution in which the pet travels between the homes with the kids.

For Texas couples who are concerned about issues surrounding pet custody, the court system may offer little in the way of consistency. Some family court judges are willing to consider the best interests of an animal and make a determination based on that standard. Others will simply consider the pets as additional items of property. In most cases, working the matter out with the other party is preferable to litigating the issue in divorce court, which can be a costly endeavor.

Source:, “Divorce & Pet Custody: How Does it Work?” Heather Brennan, July 2, 2013