Family pets and divorce

Sep 23 2016 - Posted by , in Property Division, Tagged in Property Division

Many Houston families have pets. In fact, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, between 37 percent and 47 percent of American households have a dog, with between 30 percent and 37 percent having a cat. When a couple decides to get a divorce, it can be hard to figure out who gets to keep the family pet.

A couple going through a divorce have many issues they need to work out. These may include child custody, spousal support and property division. Many couples may also need to figure out what to do with the family dog or cat. These animals are generally beloved family members, and deciding who gets to keep them can be contentious.

Most of the time, the courts treat animals as property and may be reluctant to spend a lot of time on where the animal will go after a divorce. Judges do understand that pets are an emotional topic for many people. Judges don’t hold custody hearings for pets, like children, but they do have discretion as to how they split up the animals. They can take into consideration who owned the pet before the marriage, who pays the veterinary bills, who does the food shopping and walks, and other factors. Some spouses are able to work out an agreement where they share custody of the dog, a kind of shared responsibility.

Many times pets are valuable members of a family. During a divorce, it is important that pets are not forgotten and that their needs and future needs are being met. A legal professional who is skilled in family law can help a person through every aspect of their divorce, including the issue of pets, and make sure they emerge from the divorce well cared for and happy.

Source:, “In a divorce, who gets to keep the family dog?“, Ben Steverman, April 29, 2016

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