Who Gets to Keep the Pet After a Divorce?

dog walking forward

At our law firm, we have seen the issue of pet custody become a bigger factor in divorces over the years. If you are getting a divorce and you are concerned about who gets to keep the dog, a Memphis, Tennessee property division lawyer can help you.

How Does a Court Decide on Pet Custody?

For the most part, pets are still treated like property in Tennessee and most other states. People who have adopted dogs, cats, or other animals might feel like that is silly, but that is just how things are. The laws could change, but for now pet custody is decided as a part of the property distribution process in divorce.

That does not mean that the court will treat Fido exactly like a table though. Usually, a judge will understand that there is an emotional connection here and that a living animal has needs of its own. Both spouses will generally have a chance to argue for pet custody.

Alternatively, both spouses can forge their own agreement about who gets to keep a pet. You can also put a provision in a prenuptial agreement about custody. No one wants to think about divorce before marriage even begins, but it is wise to protect the interests of you and your furry friends at all times.

How Can I Argue for Pet Custody?

There are some ways that you can show that you would be the superior pet parent. You can make your case to the court by offering evidence that:

  • You are the primary caretaker of the dog or cat
  • You have more time to care for the animal
  • Your home is more accommodating to a pet
  • You have more money to spend on the animal’s care

You can show evidence that you spend most of the money on vet bills and dog food. You can also have witnesses attest to how well you have cared for your pet and what kind of time commitment you have made.

What About the Rules of Separate and Marital Property?

It is also important to note one more thing. Since a pet is considered property under the law, it can also be considered separate or marital property. Separate property is something you owned before the marriage and marital property is an asset that you and your spouse acquired together.

You might be able to see where we are going with this. If you adopted a pet on your own before getting married, it is likely that custody will be granted to you. If you and your spouse adopted a cat or dog together, that is when a custody fight is going to be necessary.

Talk to a Tennessee Divorce Attorney

If you have any more questions about pet custody or the rest of the divorce process, contact Rice Law. We can set up a consultation and tell you more about how our experienced property division attorneys can be of assistance.