Deciding Custody of Family Pets and Animals During a Divorce

Families going through a divorce in North Carolina may wish to consider how this stressful event impacts not only the children but their pets also. As reported by CBS News, a Swedish university study found that dogs feel their owners’ stress, which may also raise their cortisol levels. Health issues might arise when your pet realizes that its family is no longer living together. One of the Swedish researchers suggests that, while humans have their supportive social networks, the human household is the focal point in a dog’s life. At Warren Family Law, we understand how you may need to ensure that there is a plan for the care and custody of your pets during the oftentimes demanding property division process.

Under the Tar Heel State’s equitable distribution laws, the family’s dogs, cats and animals are generally considered personal property. This means that you may need to classify each pet as either marital or separate property in order to determine who will take ownership of it after the divorce. If an animal was purchased together with your spouse, it might be viewed as joint marital property.

During the mediation session, you may need to discuss with your soon-to-be ex-spouse the issue of who will keep the pets. Some important factors to consider are the needs of the animal, such as the cost of its care and maintenance, and the relationship it has with your kids. Funds for its upkeep might also help in determining who it should remain with.

Any pets acquired by a spouse before the marriage are generally classified as the spouse’s own separate property. Animals received as a gift, through an inheritance, or purchased with a spouse’s own separate funds are generally considered separate property. It may, however, require some negotiation for you to obtain ownership of the pet.

Our page on divorce provides more information on what you might expect during a property division procedure.

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