Pet custody cases have becoming increasingly important among divorcing spouses in recent years. Over the past five years, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers have reported a dramatic rise in pet custody cases.
The trend of pet custody battles is unlikely to halt in the coming years. This creates an important question for pet owners who are contemplating divorce: Will I be able to keep my pets?
Who gets keeps the family pets after divorce?
Some states have adapted their pet laws to reflect the fact that pets are more than just animals. They are often an important part of our families, and the courts treat them similarly as they treat children. North Carolina, unfortunately, is not one of those states.
North Carolina treats pets as property. This means, during divorce proceedings, courts include pets within the total group of marital assets. Courts will then divide these assets equitably between both spouses.
Because pets are legally deemed property, there is no time splitting allotted between divorcing spouses. Instead, the court assigns the pets with a dollar value. The spouse who receives the pets will have to offset it with other marital assets.
If you acquired your pets before the marriage, there is a good chance that the courts will treat them as separate property. This means you will likely get to keep possession of the pets you love without it having any impact on the rest of your divorce proceedings.
It remains to be seen whether North Carolina will begin to treat pets more like children in terms of custody going forward. In the meantime, it is critical to speak with a lawyer who thoroughly understands North Carolina’s property division laws. This will help you understand your right to continue to spend time with your favorite furry friends after you finalize your divorce.