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What happens to the family pet when you divorce?

On Behalf of | May 6, 2021 | Divorce

Any divorce can be jarring, but it’s particularly so if your spouse’s filing seemingly comes out of nowhere. The demise of a marriage isn’t only challenging for spouses and their kids to cope with but their pets as well.

If you and your spouse are both close to your family pet, you may want to know what the law says and what your options are.

How Tennessee law treats pets in a divorce

Most pet owners see their dog, cat, rabbit or other animals as another family member. For those individuals, the thought of not having their pet as a constant companion in their lives is unfathomable.

Some states are beginning to change their divorce laws to treat family pets more like they do humans. In those instances, the court decides what custodial arrangement is best for the animal when spouses cannot. Tennessee hasn’t adopted such a perspective on the matter yet, though.

Here in Tennessee, the law still sees pets as property, much like a car, bank account, house or debt. The state’s equitable distribution doctrine applies to the division of such assets.

How do divorcing couples fairly “split” a pet as this doctrine calls for, though? As you can imagine, this doctrine rubs many spouses the wrong way and can at least partly result in a contested divorce.

You and your spouse may need to have a judge step in and decide what happens to your pet for you if you can’t do so between yourselves. Your attorney can help you negotiate how “custody” and support of your pet will be divided.

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