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Will I lose my dog in the divorce?

On Behalf of | Nov 27, 2023 | Divorce

The discovery that your spouse wants to keep the family pet can make the divorce process a lot worse. Dogs, cats, and even birds are often treasured like children. A spouse who feels they have a stronger bond with an animal may fight to take the dog (or other pet) in the divorce.

Deciding who gets the family pets in a divorce is rarely simple. Understanding more about how North Carolina considers pets may make it easier. Here’s what you should know: 

Pets are treated like other property

Pets are property in North Carolina. In other words, a pet is treated with similar considerations as a fridge or couch. However, there may be a few more considerations made before an owner is established in a split.

For instance, if a pet was owned before marriage, then the original owner may keep the pet. This is especially beneficial for people who have had their pets from a young age. The court may also decide on an owner depending on who cared for the pet more. The spouse who took more time to take their pet to the vet, feed, play with the pet, groom them and pay for their bills may have a higher chance of keeping a pet in a divorce.

If the couple has children, that can also affect the disposition of the family pet. Ownership may be decided based on the well-being of the child. For instance, if one spouse has full custody of their child, they may also take custody of the pet.

Establishing a pet custody arrangement

Alternatively, if both spouses feel they have a strong attachment to their pet, then they could establish a pet custody arrangement. This may work much like child custody would. Each spouse could be responsible for providing for their pet on their scheduled days. 

Reaching out for legal help can help people who are going through a divorce better understand the process, their options and their rights.