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In divorce, property division is complicated by cats and dogs

One of the most wrenching divorce decisions can involve custody of a formerly shared pet. Over the past decade, cats, dogs, and other beloved animals have started playing larger roles in divorce proceedings, when in the past judges paid little attention to the issue.

In each state, including Texas, the courts consider pets to be property. As a result, pet owners going through a divorce could see their four-legged friends wind up in the workings of marital property division. This means that, essentially, judges must designate pets as community property or separate property.

Many of today's proud pet owners, however, believe their pets are no less a part of the family than their own children. Consequently, pets are showing up more and more in divorce disputes. In a small but growing number of cases, judges are taking into account the well-being of the pet and the emotional bond with its owners.

In 2006, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers surveyed the issue of pets in divorce. One-fourth of survey takers indicated that pet custody cases had risen since earlier in the decade.

Given the concurrent trends of cohabitation and same-sex partnerships, it's no surprise that many couples have trouble deciding what to do with the family pet when the family breaks up. For divorcing couples, though, there are many factors to consider such as who bought the animal, where it lived, and should the pet stay with the children.

Texans who own racehorses or expensive show animals should also carefully document official ownership of the animal, as well as its performance and worth in its field.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Pet custody cases increasing, divorce lawyers say," Sue Manning, Feb. 28, 2012

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Attorney Christine K. Lincoln

Christine K. Lincoln offers sound counsel and legal services to protect clients and their families facing divorce and other family disputes.

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