For some couples, pets might be as much a part of the family as children. If you and your spouse both want your puppy, what happens if you two split up? Usually the law treats pets as property-but there can also be a custody battle just like with children.

Pets as personal property

Legally speaking, pets are the property of their owners. Your dog belongs to you the same way that your cell phone and kitchen table do. This means that just like all the objects in your home, the court may award pets to either you or your spouse in a divorce.

In Texas, anything that you owned before you got married counts as "separate property." This means that if you had your puppy before getting married, a judge cannot give it to your spouse during a contested divorce. If you adopted your dog after you got married, you may have to fight for it in court.

Arguing for possession of your dog

Unless you and your spouse agree on it beforehand, a judge will decide who gets your dog. Most judges allow you both to plead your case for ownership of your pet, however.

The judge may consider:

  • Your ability to care for the pet
  • Whether your home is safe for an animal
  • Who has a stronger bond with your pet

Losing your pet can add to the pain and stress of divorce. With the help of an experienced attorney, you may be able to fight to keep your dog with you in the future.

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