When Texas residents go through a divorce, they must divide they must divide their community property – including bank accounts, real estate and other assets acquired during the marriage. If they have minor children, they must sort out all issues of child custody. But who gets to keep the dog?
According to surveys, disputes over custody of pets are becoming more common in divorces, and courts are having a hard time figuring out what to do with them. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conducted a survey of its members recently and found that 27 percent reported seeing more of these disputes. Among members, 22 percent reported that courts were willing to adjudicate some of these disputes.
The same survey found that 88 percent of the pet custody battles reported involved dogs. Cats were the subjects of disputes in five percent of the cases.
Under Texas law, pets are considered property. The question of who gets to keep the dog or cat thus falls into asset division process, along with the questions of how to split up retirement accounts.
Financial questions can often become very difficult to resolve during asset division, especially in high asset divorce involving complex assets. However, even splitting up stock options boils down to dividing numbers. One can’t divide an animal that way, and the law does not provide its own solutions for visitation and joint custody of pets, as it does for minor children. As a result, the only way to resolve disputes over pet custody is through negotiation.
Of course, negotiation is the best way to resolve financial disputes as well. A Texas attorney with experience in divorce negotiation can help clients to stand up for their interests while also working through a mutually agreeable solution with the other side.
Source: Huffington Post, “Fighting Over Cats and Dogs During a Divorce,” Maria Cognetti, March 24, 2014