In Divorce, Pets Are Property

Divorce is difficult, dogs can make it worse.  Or cats.

As much as we regard them to be members of the family, lawyers remind us that pets are legally defined as property, and for the judge, there’s not much difference between Fido and the couch he sleeps on.

“Most of the time people make their peace with one person getting the dog or cat, but sometimes, they really do love their fur-babies,” recognizes Houston divorce attorney Bryan Abercrombie, a partner at Cordell & Cordell Law.

Hard to wrap your heart around the idea that Fido is a piece of property, like the car in the driveway.

“Just remember that pets are treated as personal property, so if you have the pet, you’re probably better off keeping your pet if you really, really want it,” suggests Abercrombie.

Abercrombie says the topic comes up as couples struggle through termination of a marriage, but custody of pets is a personal choice not a legal one. As the saying goes, and not entirely without legal standing, possession is nine-tenths of the law. 

“Normally when people divide personal property they’ll take what’s in their possession, and sometimes there are listings of specific property that go to the husband or wife. But for the most part, people take what’s in their possession, so if you have possession of the dog, you’re going to keep the dog.”

March and August are the two months when the most divorces are filed.  If your marriage is on the rocks and you can’t part with Fido, before you flee the house, take the dog with you.

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