In the State of Texas, there is no special pet custody statute that governs the methods by which a judge must determine which spouse keeps a dog in the event of a divorce. Instead, dogs, cats, and other pets are treated as property. As Texas is a community property state, this means that any pets acquired during the tenure of a couple’s marriage are classified as community property and are subject to the state’s property division rules accordingly.

In a community property state, divorcing couples are free to divide their marital property however they please, provided that they can reach mutually-agreeable property division terms. If negotiations or mediation do not result in a mutually-agreeable solution, a judge will be compelled to determine who gets the dog in a Texas divorce.

A Question of Ownership

As a pet is a form of property, the rules that apply to community vs. separate property in Texas generally apply to pet custody. For example, if one spouse owned the dog before a couple got married, the pet will likely be treated as separate property and will remain with that spouse in the event of a contentious divorce. Similarly, if the family dog was gifted to one spouse or inherited by one spouse during the marriage, the animal will likely be treated as separate property in favor of the spouse who first received it.

What About the Kids?

If a couple’s divorce is contentious and there is not a clear sense that a dog should belong to one spouse or the other, it is possible that a family’s child custody situation could affect its pet custody situation as well. If a couple’s minor children are bonded to the family dog, a judge may opt to either grant partial custody rights to each divorcing spouse so that the dog can “follow” the children as they move from house to house, or a judge may simply award pet custody to the parent with whom the children will reside more often.

Connect with a Knowledgeable Dallas Divorce Attorney to Learn More

If a dog is not classified as separate property and there are no minor children in the family for a judge to consider when determining pet custody, the matter of who gets the dog in a contentious divorce becomes a truly complex issue. If you are facing these circumstances, know that the compassionate team of Dallas, TX divorce lawyers at Clark Law Group can help. We understand how important pets are to the families who love them and we will treat your circumstances with the utmost care and respect.

To start exploring your legal options, please connect with our team online or call our offices at 469-765-3910 to schedule a risk-free, confidential case evaluation. You do not need to navigate this stressful transition alone. We look forward to speaking with you.