A 2014 survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers revealed that more than one of every four divorce attorneys reported an increase in the number of pet custody disputes in the past five years. This signals a significant shift that could result in a major change in family law somewhat soon. Pets are often considered to be beloved members of the family. They are best friends, faithful companions, sources of entertainment, and often receive things such as holiday and birthday gifts. In many ways, they are like non-human children, and receive love and emotional affection in many of the same ways.
So when a divorce happens, it seems logical that their custody should be treated as such, right? Not exactly. In fact, only recently have a few courts around the country begun to look at pets in this regard. In the state of Tennessee, pets are seen as personal property, meaning their custody is awarded as part of the property division process. In some cases this makes sense, such as when pets are used for breeding and thus become business assets.
This view of pets as property instead of people means that pet owners have a few extra options available to them to protect their custody in the event of a divorce. Pet custody can be listed as a term in a prenuptial agreement, thus allowing this provision to be agreed upon ahead of time. Couples who acquire or adopt a pet during the marriage can then determine custody ahead of time with a simple postnuptial agreement.
If no agreement is made and the court is forced to make decision about pet custody, they will likely hear arguments from both sides. These arguments can include:
- Who owned the pet prior to the marriage
- Who cared for the pet on a daily basis
- Who more regularly brought the pet to the veterinarian if necessary
- Who has a more flexible schedule and can take better care of the pet
Pet ownership is still a complex topic, and an attorney may be able to help you secure their custody. It is strongly advised that you bring up any questions you may have with a Murfreesboro family attorney to get sound counsel and advice for a successful outcome to your case.
At The Clarke Law Firm, Attorney David L. Clarke has substantial experience with family law issues and can assist you with your pet custody needs. We are highly familiar with personal property laws, and can help you present your case in the best possible manner to maximize the chances of a positive outcome.