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Who will get the dog when you divorce?

Like many families, you have a dog that is part of the family. You may take the dog on vacation, allow it to sleep in your bed and perhaps even include the dog in your family portraits. If you have no children or your children are grown, the dog may be especially important to you.

Unfortunately, the laws in Texas and most other states view pets as property, so if you and your spouse are preparing to divorce, you may have a difficult choice to make regarding your furry companion.

Your pet is more than a piece of furniture

When dividing property in a divorce, the courts consider the monetary value of items like your cars, home, furniture and other items. Your dog may be a registered breed carefully chosen from an award-winning bloodline, or you and your spouse may have rescued the mutt from the local shelter. Either way, in your eyes, there may be no way to put a monetary value on your pet. Nonetheless, these are the criteria that a court will use when determining where the pet will go.

More couples are finding it difficult to agree on who gets the dog when they divorce. In fact, nearly 40 percent of divorcing pet parents reach an impasse when it comes to who will take the dog. While some states are coming around to the idea that couples do not want to treat their dogs like furniture during property division, not all courts are willing to hold custody hearings for canines the way they do for children.

What about in Texas?

Some judges across the country are starting to consider the best interests of the dog the same way they may look at the best interests of a child. This may involve looking at factors such as which of you spends more time caring for the dog and who has the stronger bond with the dog. In fact, some courts are adapting a bonding test in which an animal behaviorist observes the dog with both spouses to determine which one the animal tends to follow or prefer.

Unfortunately, no matter how attached you are to your furry companion, Texas laws still consider pets to be property and may not weigh your emotions when determining who gets the dog. Your situation may require some skillful negotiations, so any legal guidance you can obtain may benefit your case for custody of your pet.

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