Consider the following scenario: during a marriage, a couple acquires a family pet – a dog named rover. A few years pass by, and the couple eventually agrees to divorce. In this situation, what happens to rover? This is a very common issue, as many couples obtain a family pet during marriage. In other cases, when one spouse already owned a pet before the marriage, the same concerns might be present. Texas family law has a preestablished method for handling this type of issue.
Texas Law Classifies Pets as Personal Property
Although this may seem counter-intuitive to many people, Texas law classifies pets as “personal property,” and this has ramifications for how Texas handles pet ownership in the context of divorce. Many people consider their beloved cat or dog to be “part of the family,” but Texas law simply doesn’t view the situation in the same way. As strange as it may sound, Texas law classifies the family cat or dog in a similar manner as a bank account, automobile, or other inanimate piece of property.
A relevant question, however, is whether the family pet will be classified as either “separate property” or “marital property.” If the family pet is classified as separate property – which can happen if the pet is acquired prior to marriage – then that pet will likely remain the sole property of the original owner. If the family pet is considered marital property, which will likely happen if the pet is acquired during marriage, then the pet may be subject to the distribution procedure involved in property division.
Texas Law Assigns an Economic Value to a Pet
If the family pet is considered marital property, then how is possession handled? Obviously, a pet cannot be “divided” in the same manner as a bank account, so how does this matter get settled? The answer is that Texas will “assign” the pet an economic value, and then give the pet solely to one spouse in a manner consistent with how the other marital property has been divided. For example, suppose that a couple owned a rare breed of dog which is valued at $1,000 at the time of the divorce. This $1,000 economic value will go into the overall pool of property subject to division, and will then be distributed in a manner which is fair under the circumstances. From the standpoint of Texas law, the key thing is that the pet is “worth” $1,000, rather than the fact that it is a cherished family pet.
Separating Couples Can Develop Independent Agreements
Although the default procedure under Texas law is to classify a family pet as property and “divide” this property along with other marital assets, spouses can still develop agreements on their own. This means that spouses can create schedules in which they share or co-own the family pet. This may be a very attractive option for a cherished family pet. Texas law will still assign the pet to one person – it cannot be “co-owned” or jointly owned under the law – but spouses can cooperate in order to develop a better outcome.
Contact The Divorce Concierge for More Information
Many times, this information about the treatment of family pets comes as a surprise. If you own a family pet and are preparing to go through a divorce, don’t panic. We can counsel you through this process to achieve the best possible outcome. For more information, contact The Divorce Concierge today.
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