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In most states the law treats the spouses’ ownership and possession of pets or companion animals following divorce like other items of personal property, such as household furnishings. If one spouse owned the pet before the marriage the pet will generally be deemed that spouse’s separate property and ownership and possession will remain with that spouse following divorce. But if the spouses acquired the pet during marriage it will be marital property (community property in community property states) and the court may award ownership of the pet to one spouse as part of the division of the marital property—sometimes using a “best interests” standard similar to the standard used in child custody determinations.

In some divorces the spouses are able to agree to a custody-sharing arrangement for a pet. And a few states (California, Illinois, and Alaska) have enacted statutes that allow family courts to treat the custody and care of children more similarly to care (support) and custody issues for children. In these states the well-being of the pet is the guiding factor for the courts in making such decisions.

In Texas, pets are generally considered personal property in the context of divorce. If a pet was owned by one spouse prior to the marriage, it is typically regarded as that spouse's separate property, and ownership will remain with them after the divorce. However, if the pet was acquired during the marriage, it is considered community property. Texas courts may then decide which spouse receives the pet as part of the division of marital property. While Texas does not have specific statutes that address pet custody in the same manner as child custody, the court may consider factors such as the care of the pet and each spouse's attachment to it when making a decision. Unlike California, Illinois, and Alaska, Texas does not have laws that require courts to consider the well-being of the pet as a primary factor. Nonetheless, divorcing spouses in Texas are free to negotiate a custody-sharing arrangement for their pet, and such agreements can be included in the divorce decree if both parties consent.

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