If you have a pet, you know that the relationship between pet and owner is unique, and the thought of losing that relationship can be devastating.
As such, determining what to do with a family pet during a divorce can be particularly upsetting. However, taking a cooperative approach to the topic can be best for you and your beloved companion.
Pets as people, property or something else?
A TIME article from early this year reports that nearly 80 percent of pet owners consider their animal to be members of the family. And most treat their pets more like children than a piece of property. These feelings create a complicated clash in the legal system, as the law in Texas considers animals to be property.
As such, in a divorce, the courts may determine the fate of a pet using the same criteria they would use to determine which party should get a piece of furniture, for instance. They would consider who bought it, who took care of it during the marriage and who may be best suited to care for it after the divorce.
However, many pet owners would agree that there is much more to consider when it comes to who should have the pet. They often examine what is in the best interests of the animal and the existing relationship between each owner and the pet. These factors are similar to those that influence child custody decisions.
As such, pets fall into a gray area of being property in the eyes of the law and a family member in the eyes of owners.
Keeping pet custody cases out of court
If you are divorcing and have a pet that both parties want to keep, resolving the matter cooperatively outside of court can be best. This approach allows for creativity. For instance, you might craft a custody agreement or visitation schedule.
You may decide to share custody and share pet-related expenses. Alternatively, you could examine your living situations, financial health and other conditions to determine where your pet may be happiest.
If you cannot reach agreements yourself outside of court, the decision could be up to a judge who may not take the same time and care to consider the unique circumstances of the relationship between owner and pet.