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Who Will Keep the Family Pet in my Texas Divorce?

How do courts determine who will keep the family pet after a divorce in Texas?

Pets are an important part of the family for many households across Texas. If you and your spouse have decided to divorce, one of your main concerns may be who will get to keep the family pet. While many couples call their pet their “baby,” in the eyes of the law, pets are not given the same regard as children. Instead, pets are lumped into the category of personal property and may be divided under the laws of community property in the state of Texas. There are, however, several ways in which you can advocate for ownership of your pet post-divorce.

Separate Property

Under certain circumstances, you may be able to successfully argue that your pet is your separate property and thus should not be divided as community property. Generally, you can prove this if:

  • You owned the pet prior to marriage; or
  • The pet was given to you as a gift during the marriage; or
  • Your pet was willed to you.

Absent evidence that the pet is your separate property, a court will consider the pet community property. In Texas, community property is divided in accordance with what is just and right. It will be up to the court to consider the unique circumstances surrounding your divorce to determine who should receive ownership of your family pet.


Negotiating with your spouse is often one of the best ways to fight for ownership of the animal. Applying the “best interests of the pet” standard, though not applicable in court, can be effective during negotiations with your spouse. Your divorce attorney can help to mediate you and your spouse. Consideration may be given to who is keeping the family home that the pet is accustomed to and who will have custody of the children, who are likely attached to the pet. You may even wish to consider implementing a custody arrangement for your pet that allows both of you to spend time with your beloved pet after the divorce.