It may feel like your loyal, furry friend is a member of the family. However, under Texas law, your pet is considered property. This means that, in the event of divorce, your dog or cat can be treated just like furniture and any other possessions-and be assigned to one spouse or the other.
While you may be able to cope with giving up your car or wedding china, having your pet taken from you is much more emotionally costly. Dealing with the grief of your marriage ending is difficult enough. You shouldn’t also have to worry about losing your doting animal companion.
In today’s post, we provide some tips to avoid a legal battle over your pet.
If you and your spouse end your marriage on friendly terms, you may be able to work together to sort out a pet custody arrangement. However, most divorces are contested-meaning that you and your ex are unable to agree on the terms of your divorce on your own. In such cases, a judge will decide the future of all of your property-including your pets-for you.
Even if you’re happy to let a judge decide on topics such as alimony or property division, you may not be okay with leaving the fate of your pet in a judge’s hands. Therefore, it can pay to collaborate with your ex and draft a proposed pet custody and visitation agreement together. A judge will be likely to approve any proposal that both members of the couple have already agreed to.
If one member of a couple enters into a marriage with a pet already, it can be worthwhile to create a prenuptial agreement-outlining what will happen to the pet, in the event of divorce. Similarly, when a married couple decides to get a pet together, creating a postnuptial agreement for the pet can be a responsible step to take.
While drafting a legal document for your pet may seem unnecessary when your relationship with your spouse is strong, you’ll be glad you have it if your marriage heads south.
Divorce is a difficult, emotionally charged period in anyone’s life. During such a high-stress time, any steps you’ve taken to prevent added hostility and resentment-and protect the animal that gives you emotional support-will be a great relief.