What to Know About Creating a Pet Guardianship Plan

small dog on rug

If you are going through a divorce and you had pets with your spouse, you may be wondering what happens to them. Can you negotiate for pet guardianship and keep the pets you adopted together? The court has its own way of dealing with pets in a divorce, but there are also other options you and your spouse might want to explore before you let the court decide. A Shelby County, Tennessee divorce lawyer from our firm can help you with that.

Will the Court Decide on Pet Guardianship?

The court can decide who gets the pets in a divorce. They are actually looked at as property, so they are divided up just like anything else that you and your spouse owned together. So the court is not actually looking at this like a custody dispute. It is a matter of equitable property distribution.

That also means that the rules of separate and marital property could apply. If you adopted or bought a pet before you got married, that pet should be considered your separate property. There should not be a dispute over who gets pet guardianship in that case. If you and your spouse adopted a pet together, that pet can be considered marital property. This is when things can get more complicated.

A recently proposed law would change how the courts look at pets and custody of them during divorce proceedings. That bill has not passed though, so for now you might be better off working on your own pet guardianship plan with your spouse.

Can My Spouse and I Figure Out Our Own Pet Guardianship Plan?

If you can keep things amicable, talking to your spouse about the pets and where they end up can be in the best interests of everyone involved. If you two are not on the best terms, your lawyers can do most of the talking during the mediation process.

Can You Split Pet Custody After a Divorce?

You might also decide to split custody after your divorce. Maybe you both have nice yards for the dog to run around in. Perhaps your cat does not mind the occasional trips in the car if it means he gets to hang out with both of his people. If you think that you can make such an arrangement work, you can negotiate one.

You can set times for pickup and dropoff, decide who gets the pet when, and handle all of the other details in mediation. Just remember that this is something that you are going to have to work out with your spouse and their lawyer. The court is unlikely to weigh in on this kind of issue and set up any kind of shared guardianship agreement on its own.

Talk to Our Family Lawyers

If you want to learn more about how we can help you negotiate pet custody and handle all other aspects of your divorce, contact Rice Law and schedule a consultation. We would love to tell you more about how our legal team can be of assistance.