Tennessee Joins Illinois, Other States, Considers “Well Being” Of Pets In Pet Custody Cases
One of the hardest things about the divorce process is the separation of the parties into different households, and with that the determination of who and where children and pets will live. Child custody is one of the hardest-fought issues in the divorce process, because who a child lives with and who will make important decisions about a child’s life are issues that both parents often care very much about and want to be a part of. In some states, such as Illinois, California, Alaska, and New York, pet custody must also be determined as part of the divorce proceedings if there are pets involved in the marriage. Along with Washington, D.C., which began considering pet custody laws in the 2022 legislative session, now Tennessee is also considering following suit and adding pet custody laws onto the books.
The move to promulgate pet custody laws in Tennessee was spurred by State Representatives Caleb Hemmer and Jeff Yarbro, who are both democratic Tennessee state senators, after they learned about the sad tale involving one of their constituents and his pet during his divorce. Constituent Tim Shrum had lost his pet dog during his divorce, and began to research pet custody laws soon thereafter to see if there was a way to advocate for pet custody rights in Tennessee. The proposed legislation, coined HB0467 and SB0568, would require courts to consider a pet’s “well-being” when determining the issue of pet custody during divorce proceedings. This is similar to the analysis that courts must undergo when it comes to child custody, which is the “best interests” of the child. In addition, the proposed legislation includes language that would require that “The court may provide for the ownership or joint ownership of any pet or companion animal owned by the parties, taking into consideration the well-being of the animal.” If passed into Tennessee law, the pet custody legislation would take effect as of July 1 of this year. Some advocates of the pet custody legislation believe that the bill should go further, and should ensure that at least one party takes responsibility and care of the pet in the case of a divorce. These measures are important, advocates say, because too many people who are facing divorce abandon their pets at animal shelters. Animal advocate and president of the Tennessee Chapter of the SPCA, a non-profit that helps animals without homes, Celina Batlle notes that pets are sometimes treated like “objects” that divorcing parties “just…dispose of” and note that “Just because your life is changing…both parties should be responsible and decide who is going to be in charge of the animal and not be able to leave it at the shelter.”
Help with Your Pet Custody Case in Illinois
Pets are an important part of our lives and families. Fortunately, in Illinois, pet custody laws protect the well-being of pets and the rights of pet owners in the divorce process. If you are facing a pet custody issue in Chicago, contact the experienced Chicago pet custody lawyers at Birnbaum Gelfman Sharma & Arnoux, LLC today and speak to a lawyer about your rights.