Things like your house, cars and bank accounts might be worth a lot more financially. But except for the children, perhaps nothing is more important to you than your pets. You raised your dog, cat or other animal from infancy, taught them tricks and gave them a home. In return, they give you love, affection and companionship.
If you are close to your family pets, the thought of losing them to your ex can be painful. But if you were wondering if Texas divorce law has something like “pet custody” similar to child custody, the answer is no.
Objects, not children
Traditionally, pets are considered chattel, which is a legal term for personal property. Texas divorce law treats Fido the same as it does your furniture and record collection: objects to be divided up in your asset division settlement. If you and your spouse cannot agree who will get the animals, the judge will decide.
This can seem cold-hearted to many pet owners. After all, pets like cats and dogs are living creatures who can get very attached to their humans. Unlike inanimate objects, they have feelings and could be traumatized when one of the adults suddenly disappears from their lives. Certainly, it can hurt you, as the owner, to have to give up the pet you love.
Will the law change someday?
Some states are slowly moving toward treating pets as more than chattel in divorce proceedings. But Texas still uses the traditional approach. While you and your spouse can agree to an unofficial custody plan to share your pets, neither of you can enforce that plan in court if your ex stops cooperating. But if you and your ex can still trust each other, your pets can stay in your lives.