Who Keeps the Dog in a Divorce?
Getting a divorce, while oftentimes necessary, is not easy or enjoyable. It can cost a lot of money, time, and emotional labor. Not only do you probably have to find a new living situation, new furniture, and a new life, but you may end up sharing “custody” of the family pets as well as your children, or locked in a battle with your former spouse over who should keep those pets. You might want to know: how do I keep my dog in the divorce?
It’s likely that whomever brought the pet into the marriage will be the one likely to keep it, but there are many variables to consider when it comes to who gets to keep the pet in a divorce. One of these variables is the question of community versus separate property.
What is the difference between community property and separate property?
In the eyes of the law here in Texas, a dog is considered property, per several court rulings.
What sort of property is it? Community property (or marital property) is property obtained after the marriage. For example, if a couple bought a car or house after they were married, then it is considered to be owned by both members of the marriage. If the property was owned before the marriage, however, it is separate property. If a partner brought their jewelry, clothes, and furniture from their home into the marriage, then that is their singular property. This applies to pets as well. If the dog was obtained before the marriage, then it belongs to whomever bought that dog. However, if the dog was purchased or adopted by the couple after they were married, then it belongs to the both of them.
If the dog is considered separate property, you may think that there is no way you can keep the dog after the divorce, but there are a few factors still to be considered. If during the marriage, marital funds were used to care for the dog – such as food, vet bills, toys – then the dog could then be considered community property or marital property. The more marital money spent on the pet, the more likely it will be put in the marital property category.
While a dog is considered to be property, the court may rule that the dog should go to the parent granted primary custody of any children. This is because it may be in the children’s best interests that the dog stay with them.
If you are bringing a pet into a marriage, you may want to consider a pre- or post-marital agreement.
What are pre- and postmarital agreements?
If they want to be careful, a couple can sign agreements before the marriage (or after) dictating how to divide their possessions and assets in case of divorce. A premarital agreement outlines the property owned by each of the future spouses and the rights available for each in the event the marriage ends.
When a couple makes this type of agreement after getting married, it is called a postmarital agreement.
Knowing how their money and possessions will be divided offers financial security to the couple. Writing out one of these agreements doesn’t have to be awkward or uncomfortable, as long as you sit down with your partner and communicate effectively in order to pursue the best future for you, no matter what storms may arise. Be sure to sit down with your San Antonio family law attorney during this stage so that he or she may give you advice. A court will determine whether the agreement is fair and clear in its arrangements.
What can I do if my ex-spouse ends up with the dog?
In the case that you do not wind up with ownership of the dog, and there has been no pre- or postmarital agreement made as to where the dog should go, there is still a route that might satisfy everyone. In some cases, a judge may award visitation rights. Just like with children, if you do not wind up with custody of the pet, you may be granted visitation rights instead. The times and schedules are discussed and agreed upon between the ex-spouses. This is just one way to keep in touch with your beloved pet, even if you are no longer living with them.
What about the best interests of the dog?
For us dog lovers, we may be thinking that the courts should take the best interests of the dog into consideration, and in some cases, that does actually happen. Though it is rare, the judge may consider which spouse would be better at caring the dog. Formal rulings based on this are few and far between, and it’s more likely that the judge will consider this matter in an informal analysis, judging who has better living space for the dog or who is more suited to care for it.
While we do what we can to avoid divorce, sometimes it’s necessary for the health and well-being of a family. It’s painful when it comes to pass, often losing our property, valuable time with our children, and even sometimes the faithful family pet. Find out your options from the divorce attorneys at Grable Grimshaw PLLC. Call us today at 210-963-5297 or fill out our contact form to schedule an appointment at our San Antonio office.