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Dealing with pet custody in a divorce

During a divorce, who gets to keep the pets can become an emotional issue for many Texas couples. Although courts have traditionally treated family animals as personal property subject to the normal rules of asset division, many have now started to look at the matter in a way similar to how child custody and visitation issues are determined.

Treating a dog or a cat as purely personal property often led to questions of valuation that were not easily determined. Sometimes the pet was used as a bargaining chip in exchange for another asset, which often led to conflict and undue pressure.

Many courts are now using the principles of child custody and basing the decision on what is perceived to be the best interests of the animal. Some judges will consider issues such as who can spend the most time with the pet and financially support it and who has the most ideal space for the pet. If the couple have children, judges may also look at the relationship the pet has with them, whether good or bad, which can affect both the determination of who gets to keep the pets as well as child custody decisions.

As is the case with other divorce issues, many estranged couples consider attempting to reach a settlement rather than leaving the issue in the hands of a judge. Divorce mediation may be a potential solution in this regard. Another method would involve each spouse, with the assistance of their family law attorneys, negotiating a comprehensive agreement that can then be submitted to the court for its ultimate approval.

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