The legal dispute over a miniature Schnauzer recently took another step when a Texas Court of Appeals ruled. The case involved the ownership of a dog the couple purchased during a brief intimate relationship. After they split up, Kendall Richardson and Alysse Barlow disagreed over ownership of the pet (Texas laws consider pets to be a possession). Barlow accused Richardson of conversion (a civil charge equivalent to theft), trespass to chattels (unauthorized use of property) and fraud.
The dispute went to trial, where Richardson received sole ownership of the dog. The court further instructed Barlow to also pay $12,000 in attorney fees. She would receive $600 for her 50% ownership when the couple purchased the dog.
Barlow disputed three elements of the ruling, claiming the trial court erred:
- In awarding sole ownership
- In awarding $12,000 for attorney’s fees
- In awarding less than market value for the dog
The appellate court ruling
Appeals Courts do not retry cases. Instead, they determine if the trial court followed the law and considered all applicable elements of the case. The 298th Judicial District Court of Dallas County reviewed the case and found conflicting evidence over ownership. Nonetheless, it ruled that:
- Richardson rightfully retains ownership of the dog because it was impossible to divide the property.
- $600 was an appropriate amount.
- There was no legal basis for awarding attorney’s fees because the issue should be tried by consent with authorization of award for the fees. In this case, there was no such authorization.
Some battles are worth fighting
It is sometimes vital for former spouses or couples to fight for ownership of pets or other jointly owned property. Many family law attorneys do not focus on litigation or appeals, so it is often essential to work with an experienced, Board-Certified Texas family law expert attorney who can handle litigation and highly contentious family law matters.