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Pets now considered during property division of divorce

In the past, couples often gave little thought toward which spouse would take the family pets during a divorce. There are often cases where one spouse would argue that he or she came into the marriage with the pet and therefore the pet should not be considered as community property. Or perhaps the pet had a medical condition and required expensive treatment, which party should be responsible for that at the time of divorce? Today, Texas law contains several laws aimed at reducing the murky areas regarding pet ownership and protection.

Texas law considers animals as property. Because of that, animals can be awarded to either spouse as a condition of the divorce. In fact, some couples can agree amicably to share custody of a family animal, complete with visitation schedules.

In 2011, the Texas legislature went one step further in codifying the protection of pets from potential harm during divorces and other breakups. Now it is unlawful for one party to remove a pet or companion animal from the possession or care of another who was under the protection of protective order. That law was strengthened even more in 2013 and now a person can be jailed for abusing or mistreating an animal belonging to a protected spouse. These changes came about as a result of domestic abusers hurting their spouse's pets in an attempt to vent their anger toward their victim.

People going through divorce have a lot to deal with. If there are children involved there will be child custody matters to resolve, child support payments to hammer out in a litany of other important task to complete. Many people often overlook the importance of having a well-thought-out plan for the property division aspect of their divorce. A legal professional with experience in family law is crucial to helping divorcing parties divide up real estate, retirement assets, expensive family heirlooms, and pets and livestock.

Source: Lantana Living, "Divorce? Who gets the pets?!" Jul. 18, 2014

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