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Photo of Professionals at JMG, PLLC

When experience matters, don’t leave your future to chance.

Determining what happens to the pet in a Tennessee divorce

On Behalf of | Sep 17, 2023 | Family Law |

People who consider their pets to be part of the family may be shocked to learn that in most states, if divorcing couples can’t decide on their own how or if “custody” of their pet is to be shared, judges are directed under the law to decide who gets them in much the same way they’d decide how any “property” is divided. 

That’s because under the law, for purposes of divorce, pets are considered property. That’s how it is in Tennessee.

Will Tennessee lawmakers change the law?

Slowly but surely, states are beginning to change their laws to direct or allow judges to consider the well-being of the animals when determining who will get to keep them or if they’ll be shared across two homes. Some lawmakers in Tennessee would like our law to be amended to do that.

While bills to address that have been introduced in both houses of the Tennessee legislature, they haven’t made much progress. One lawmaker behind the legislation reflects the views of a lot of Tennesseans when he says, “For many people, pets are like family members and even cared for like children. It only makes sense for courts to treat them the same way.”

Negotiating your own pet sharing agreement

Of course, the decision doesn’t have to be left up to a judge. Some spouses work out their own pet sharing agreement. If they have children, the pet may transition between homes with the kids. Sometimes, that’s not feasible for one parent or good for the animal. If that’s the case, they can work out a way for each of them to be able to regularly spend time with their four-legged companion. 

Being able to spend time with both their people can help a pet through what can be a drastic and difficult change in their lives. It can also help the divorcing spouses who may need their beloved pet more than ever as they transition to single life.

Whether you and your soon-to-be ex want to work out an agreement that’s in everyone’s best interests or you have a spouse who wants to fight you on this front, it’s important to have sound legal guidance.