Pet custody property division divorce cases increasing

On behalf of Loughmiller Higgins, Attorneys at Law posted in Divorce on Friday, March 16, 2012.

When one thinks of property division in divorce proceedings, one tends to think of furniture, large electronics equipment, the family home and miscellaneous household appliances. However, one of the most complicated trends today is pets. Pets, under Texas law, are considered to be property, as is the case across the country. But even though the law technically considers pets a property division issue, they often become part of a heated and emotional dispute for divorcing couples.

Most courts will still give pets to the partner who is awarded primary physical child custody, so as the children are not separated from their beloved pet. But pet custody issues have heated up in separations where minor children are not involved.

Not long ago, spouses were reluctant to show emotional ties to their pets. However, things have changed drastically over the last couple of years. In a 2006 survey sponsored by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, 25 percent of those who responded stated that pet custody cases had notably increased from 2001, and are thought to have only increased more since the study was published. Now more than ever, pets are given greater consideration, especially with the rise of childless couples who may view their pets as a substitute for a child.

There are a host of issues that divorcing couples must confront when dealing with property division matters. Pet custody may be one of the more difficult ones because of the emotions and attachments involved. Those Texas residents negotiating who gets the family pet would likely benefit from keeping the lines of communication open and trying to fashion an agreement that is fair and truly in the best interests of everyone. More and more, these cases seem to be taking on the characteristics of child custody proceedings, and by understanding the laws surrounding pet custody, divorcing spouses may be able to come to an agreement.

Source: Mercury News, “Divorce lawyers: Pet custody cases increasing,” Sue Manning, March 4, 2012

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