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Divorce and pet custody

Tennessee residents who think about divorce commonly associate the process with issues like child support and alimony, but pet custody can also be a major disagreement during the dissolution of a marriage. In spite of the fact that a number of people consider their pet a member of the family, most divorce courts treat the family cat or dog as personal property and thus either community property or subject to equitable division depending upon the particular state.

Since many individuals have strong bonds with their pets, it is not uncommon for couples to fail to come to an agreement about who will keep a loved feline or canine. The result is an increasing number of divorce cases where pet ownership is subject to a court order. As a result, some judges have changed the way they handle determining which party will keep a couple's pet.

Some states have begun to listen to professional testimony about what is in the pet's best interest and used these expert opinions to help determine issues such as custody, support and visitation. Under this view, which is similar to that used in child custody cases, judges would consider which spouse is best able to provide love and attention for a family pet, which one has the financial means to care for the animal and how much space they can provide a pet.

Couples going through a divorce are often able to negotiate agreements with the assistance of counsel relating to such matters as spousal support and visitation rights without having to have a court make those decisions. Consideration should be given to including provisions in these agreements that would cover issues relating to the household's pets as well.

Source: The Huffington Post, "Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?", Nancy Kay, November 10, 2013

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