Houston Pet Custody Attorney
An increasingly-common issue for a couple going through a divorce is the question of who will get to keep the pets. As divorce rates increase, more and more couples are making the choice not to have children, which makes pets a larger part of the family. Therefore, the issue of pet custody becomes even more relevant. However, there are currently only a handful of options available for pet owners who are going through a divorce.
Legally, a pet is considered personal property. They are treated the same way as one would treat any other sort of material good in your home. This means that when a couple begins the process of divorce, a pet whose custody is in dispute becomes a consideration in the divorce order issued by the court.
At Holmes, Diggs & Sadler we have over 100 years of combined experience in dealing with complex divorce proceedings. Every year since 2010, Cindy Diggs has been selected as a “Super Lawyer” in Family and Divorce as well as a top Texas lawyer by Texas Monthly.
An experienced legal professional can help keep everything in a divorce fair, transparent, and open, and their involvement can make the divorce easier. Pet custody can be a complicated divorce issue, but our lawyers are committed to advocating for you at every possible turn.
Call us today at (713) 802-1777 or fill out a contact form to schedule consultation, and discuss how we can help you keep your pets.
Why You Need a Pet Custody Attorney
Emotions run high in most divorces, and having an animal by your side can not only help relieve a great deal of your stress during divorce proceedings but also help you move on with your life after the divorce. To get the best possible outcome for you and your pet, contact one of our Texas family law attorneys as soon as possible.
How Pet Ownership is Determined
In order to determine who retains ownership of the personal property – including pets – in a divorce case, the court will generally consider several factors. First, the court will likely apply either the laws of community property or those of equitable distribution in making its decision.
In a community property application, all of the couple’s property is split 50/50 between the husband and wife. In an equitable distribution application, the court will split the property equitably, or fairly, but not always equally.
The course of action determined by the court depends on many factors including, how long the marriage has lasted, future wages, and who put in the greatest effort into acquiring the item. Next, the court will decide if the property is legally divisible as part of the marital estate. The marital estate does not usually include items that one of the spouses received as a gift or as an inheritance or acquired prior to marriage.
The court will also determine the value of every item in the divorce proceeding. Finally, the court will factor in any agreement that the couple may have regarding the division of property and assets.
The court takes a holistic approach in making its decision, and after taking all of these factors into account, it will determine to whom the property will be granted. This same approach is taken in determining pet custody, as the pet will simply be another piece of property evaluated by the court based on how the law is written.
Unfortunately, because pets are considered personal property, a court does not need to determine the pet’s best interest in awarding ownership. However, some courts have begun to diverge from this norm. Their decision to award custody is based on factors like which owner the pet spends the most time with the pet or who the pet’s primary caretaker is.
Some courts have even gone as far as to awarded “petimony,” an alimony-like payment designed to cover the maintenance costs of caring for pets after a divorce. Others have removed pets from homes that may have dangerous elements, such as an unsafe yard or other dangerous animals in the home. Some courts have also awarded shared custody of a couple’s pet.
Yet, these decisions can be problematic because there is no real legal authority for these decisions. This means that there is no real agency that can monitor whether the court order is being honored. Therefore, when a court is unwilling to order such an arrangement, the easiest arrangement is for couples to work out a custody agreement for their pets through their respective attorneys.
What You Can Do to Ensure That You Keep Your Pet
The first step in ensuring that you keep custody of your pet is to contact one of our Texas family law attorneys to begin the process of building the case to a judge that you are the rightful owner of your pet.
The easiest way to do this is to prove that your pet belongs to you, or that your pet would be in a better situation under your care. There are several ways you can go about the process including:
- Providing ownership or adoption papers stating that you are the pet’s rightful owner
- Providing veterinary receipts or other documentation proving that you were the one who most often took your pet for checkups, shots, and medical care
- Showing that you were the one who bought your pets food, toys, etc. through pet store receipts
- Providing evidence that shows you were the one who trained your pet
- Providing evidence that you will be able to provide an adequate home for your pet after a divorce
- Proving that you have a large enough yard or living space could be helpful (for example, (having a 200-pound dog in a 500-foot studio apartment would not be feasible).
- Proving that your work schedule would allow you with enough time to care for your pet
At Holmes, Diggs & Sadler, we understand how stressful the divorce process can be. You shouldn’t have to worry about losing your beloved pet in the process. So, if you are concerned with losing your beloved animal companion, call us today at (713) 802-1777 or contact us online. The sooner you begin the process, the sooner we can begin to advocate for you and your pet.