How are pets handled during a divorce? Does the State of Texas make it any easier on the family?
Children often feel neglected during their parent’s divorce, especially around holidays. They were not consulted about the divorce. They have little choice about where they will live. The kids don’t like all the changes associated with two households and visitation. They worry their parents will blame them for the divorce. They are particularly concerned about what will happen to their pet when the divorce is over.
Will one parent keep the pet and not allow the children to see it when they visit the other parent? Divorcing couples generally agree about a parenting plan for their children, but what about the pet? Not only are the children attached to their pet, but many times both parents feel strongly that they want to have the pet with them. It is a reminder of better times and a wonderful companion during lonely evenings.
Pets are treated as property under the Texas Family Code so there is no specific legal provision for developing a parenting plan that allows the pet to be shared between the divorced parents so the children will have access to it when they move from one location to another during visitation periods.
If the pet was purchased before the couple married, then the person who bought the animal owns it after the divorce. It’s his or her separate property. However, if the pet was purchased while the couple was married, then the animal is community property and both parents have a claim to keep the pet.
Unfortunately, the court can only award the pet to one parent or the other, further complicating the situation and perhaps angering the other parent. This situation can be avoided if the couple is reasonable, considers the best interest of their children and work out a plan for moving the pet along with the children during visitations. Unfortunately, many couples enduring a litigated divorce are not reasonable and don’t consider the best interests of their children in the heat of battle.
If parents want to cooperate, think about the best interests of their children and avoid the additional damage to the children by separating them from their beloved pet they should opt for a collaborative divorce where the parents and a collaborative team negotiate a settlement agreement that meets the goals and interests of the parents and their children. Usually, the pet can be transferred from one household to the other on the same or a similar schedule to the children so they never have to be away from their animal friend for long. This will maintain some stability in a chaotic world for the children during a time of significant turmoil and change.
The optimum solution is to transfer the pet along with the children during visitations on week-ends, vacations, and during the summer so the children always have their pet with them when they shift from one household to another.
If the parents exchange children at school, it’s easy to arrange to transfer the pet right before or after picking up the children from school so they won’t feel estranged from their animal friend. The moral of this story is to keep your divorce out of the court room and avoid forcing a judge to award the pet to one parent.
Your children will be eternally grateful if you opt for a collaborative divorce and negotiate a visitation schedule for their animal friend similar to their own visits with the other parent.