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Is your pet like a child to you? Divorce can complicate that

June 21, 2018


Putting off marriage till a later date is increasingly common in Tennessee. But people are not just waiting longer to say “I do” — many couples choose to establish themselves financially before starting down the path to parenthood. For these couples, pets often replace the idea of children, and even in families with children the pets are often viewed as integral members who contribute emotionally. While there are established guidelines for how to handle child custody during divorce, no such thing exists for beloved pets.

Divorcing couples who engage in drawn-out feuds over who will keep a pet run the risk of being ordered to sell off their precious pooch. Although they will likely split the profits from the sale, this is hardly a replacement for an animal’s love. In other cases, one person might be awarded ownership while the other receives a payment from their ex. Again, replacing a pet that a person views as a child with money is not necessarily ideal for some people.

Instead, people who truly treat their dogs as children might be better suited to creating a custody arrangement on their own. In one case, a judge was ready to order a couple to sell off their dog when they presented a custody agreement. It detailed a schedule, holiday custody, which dog food should be used and how to handle vet bills.

In Tennessee divorce proceedings, dogs are viewed as property no matter how strongly their owners feel. Couples are typically expected to deal with their animals during property division because of this. However, if a couple can figure out their own custody arrangement during divorce, they can avoid losing their pet altogether.

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