Many Texas couples going through a divorce will have to sort out things like child custody matters, property division and alimony payments. But, what happens when both spouses are unwilling to part with the family pet? Couples who own a pet may want to consider a “pet parenting plan” after divorce.
Legally, pets are considered property, and the court cannot determine a “custody” ruling for property. However, a divorcing couple may choose to come up with a pet parenting plan, which may include agreements for things like who is responsible for paying the veterinarian bills, along with pet visitation schedules. A divorcing couple may even decide to formalize the pet parenting agreement by including it in the written divorce agreement.
Another thing to consider when drafting a pet parenting plan is what is ultimately best for the animal. Frequent travel for visitation plans may take a toll on the pet, and consistency between households is important. A veterinarian may be able to provide a divorcing couple with advice on how to make the transition as smooth as possible for the animal, should its owners decide to “co-parent” their pet.
Disagreements during a divorce are bound to happen, and when couples cannot agree on who gets to keep the pet, the court may intervene and make an order for the “property” to be divided. The court won’t necessarily treat the animal the same as other property, like a vehicle, and the judge may even rule in favor of who primarily takes care of the animal. For couples who do not want the court to make the decision for them, a family law attorney may be able to help couples craft a pet parenting plan, in addition to other agreements that must be settled after a marriage has ended.
Source: The Huffington Post, “Divorce Confidential: The Fight for Your Pet in Divorce,” Caroline Choi, Sept. 14, 2014