How is a Pet Custody Plan Determined in Tennessee?

woman drinking coffee with pet dog

While many people consider their pets part of their family, Tennessee state law does not. If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, a TN court will not view the determination of your animal as a custody dispute, but rather a matter of property division. If left up to the court, they will distribute ownership of the pet to one spouse, like they would for a television or sofa. However, you are within your rights to draw up a pet custody plan.

A pet custody agreement can be a beneficial tool for couples getting divorced. It can allow both parties to maintain a relationship with their beloved pet and establish rules on who has custody and when, as well as financial matters related to the animal’s care. Contact a Memphis, Tennessee family law attorney for more information on your rights during your divorce.

How is Custody Determined?

Pet custody is decided upon largely like child custody. Keep in mind that Tennessee courts consider pets as personal property so they are not subject to a custody agreement. Because of this you and your spouse have free reign to decide every detail of your pet custody agreement. Depending on your relationship with your ex-spouse this could be a good or bad thing.

You can sit down with your spouse and draft up your own custody agreement as long as you both agree to the terms. If this does not work for you then you can try mediation where a neutral person helps guide you through the conversation and keeps the peace while you determine what custody arrangement would be best.

Whichever route you take, certain factors will need to be taken into consideration to determine who gets custody and the details of the agreement. Ask the following questions when determining your custody agreement.

  • Did one spouse own the pet before the relationship?
  • Was the pet obtained by both spouses during the relationship?
  • Who was the main caretaker of the pet? Who spent the most time walking, feeding, and caring for the pet?
  • Who has the strongest bond with the pet?
  • What is each spouse’s living situation? Does one spouse have a larger home and yard for the animal to use?
  • What is each spouse’s financial situation and ability to pay for care?
  • Are there children involved in the divorce? If so, which spouse has primary custody of them?
  • What are the work schedules of each spouse and what is their availability for taking care of the animal?
  • Has either spouse exhibited animal cruelty or aggression toward the pet?

What is Included in a Pet Custody Plan?

The beauty of having to draft your own pet custody agreement is that you can include or exclude anything that you want, given that both spouses agree. You can completely personalize it to suit the needs of your family. Some standard topics that should be established in your custody arrangement are as follows.

  • Which spouse is the primary owner
  • Visitation rights of the non-primary owner
  • Both spouse’s financial responsibility for pet costs
  • Who will receive ownership of the pet if the primary owner must relinquish ownership for any reason
  • If one or both spouses have a say in decisions about the pet, especially medical or health-related decisions