Many people view their pets as members of the family. However, when it comes to the law, most states treat family pets as property.
Who gets the pets when a married couple divorces in Tennessee?
Though lawmakers recently proposed a bill to begin determining legal custody of pets similarly to how courts determine custody of children, that bill did not get out of committee. Tennessee law considers pets to be personal property. As a result, the court treats family pets as part of the marital property to be divided between divorcing spouses.
Tennessee is an equitable distribution state. The court will determine who gets your pets based on what it thinks is fair. Factors such as who registered the pet, who takes care of the pet and who pays for the pet’s food and medical care may influence the court’s decision.
Steps to take to keep your pet
The best thing you can do to ensure you keep your pet after a divorce is negotiate with your spouse. If you can reach an agreement about custody of the pet, you can avoid leaving the decision up to the court.
If you are unable to reach an agreement on your own, you may have more success by working with a mediator. If you cannot reach an agreement, you must prepare a case to convince the court to award the pet to you.
Because people have emotional attachments to their pets, battles over pets during the divorce process can get messy. However, you can take steps to make the process easier.