How would the law determine who gets the family pet?

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How would the law determine who gets the family pet?

I bought our dog 9 years ago and I still have all the papers on her that shows I am the only one who signed for her. I didn’t won’t to go down this road but my exhusband is refusing to let me see her.

Asked on October 24, 2012 under Family Law, Tennessee

Answers:

M.D., Member, California and New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 8 years ago | Contributor

Typically, pets are considered to be personal property. So if a spouse owned a pet prior to the marriage, acquired it during the marriage by gift/inheritance or with non-marital money, then that pet is their non-marital property (your having signed the paperwork may help here). Otherwise, it is marital property and may be awarded to either party.

If it is marital property, then when deciding which party to award the pet, if there are minor children involved who are very attached to the pet, the Court will likely award the pet to whichever parent has primary custody. If there are no children, then another strong argument would be which party cared for the pet the most.  So for example, if you can prove that you were the one primarily responsible for the dog (i.e. feeding it, taking it to the vet, walking it, etc.), then you will be much more likely to be granted ownership.

You should also be aware that even if you are not awarded the dog, you may still ask the Court for visitation rights. While not a common occurrance, it is done.


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