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Is the family dog a family member or just personal property?

Although many people in Texas and elsewhere refer to their four-legged friends as beloved family members, it is not surprising that most courts treat them as personal property. Couples with pets who are going through a divorce often have trouble agreeing upon who will get custody and thus have to rely upon the court to make a decision.

Pets can be considered either separate property or community property, depending on the state where the divorcing couple resides. While courts traditionally have used some of the same factors in determining custody of a pet as are used in dividing up household items, the substantial increase in divorce cases that are involving pet issues have caused some judges to broaden their thinking.

Many judges understand that people often cherish their pets as they do a child and are accordingly using some of the same considerations as are used in determining child custody and visitation. Expert witnesses are increasingly being called upon to give their opinions as to which spouse may be better equipped to give the pet the most love and attention, as well as better able to care for the pet. Courts are also looking at whether one of the spouses neglected or abused the animals in making their determination as to what would be in the best interests of the pet.

Divorce can be hard on everyone and that includes family pets. Couples who are able to reach an agreement as to what will happen to these animals after a divorce in terms of custody, visitation and financial support will not have to rely upon a court to make that determination.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?", Nancy Kay, November 10, 2013

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Bruce Turner

In addition to his law degree, Bruce Turner has a master's degree in tax law and is Board Certified in Commercial Real Estate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization.

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Bruce Turner with Bennett, Weston LaJone & Turner, P.C.

Attorney Bruce Turner is located in Dallas and represents people and businesses throughout DFW and the Metroplex, including Denton, Carrollton, Lewisville, Flower Mound, Farmers Branch, Irving, Las Colinas, Corinth, Highland Village, The Colony, Plano, Frisco, Allen, McKinney, Mesquite, Grand Prairie, Garland and Grapevine as well as Collin County, Denton County and Dallas County in Texas.

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