Tennessee residents may not always be aware that some cities have enforceable codes limiting the number of pets you can own, and violating the law may land you a fine. At Smith, Lehberger & Bodie, we assist in planning for the division of property and animals during a divorce, and we are mindful of how local laws may affect things. In the Volunteer State, pets are viewed as personal property. If you live in Knoxville, the city’s code limits each household to own a combination of up to four animals, as reported by the Times Free Press. Knox County, however, allows ownership of a greater number of pets based on the size of your property.

Why would someone getting a divorce need to know about pet restrictions? When couples separate, a person may temporarily move in with friends, relatives or a potential new spouse. A beloved family pet may also be moving in with the soon-to-be ex-spouse and be added to the number of the new household’s existing pets. Owning animals in an amount higher than the number legally allowed by a city or county code requires applying for a special permit. If found to be in violation of the code, you or the owner of your new household might face a fine.

When you are separating or going through a divorce, you may wish to plan in advance for the care of your family pets. Under Tennessee’s equitable distribution law, all animals are considered marital property unless they were acquired separately, received as an individual gift or owned prior to the marriage. This means that pets may need to be classified as marital or separate property much like all the other assets that were acquired during or before your marriage. You may also be required to show evidence to back up why a particular animal should be awarded to you instead of your spouse.

Our page on dividing up assets provides more information on Tennessee’s divorce procedures.