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Who gets the pet in a North Carolina divorce?

Dividing property during a divorce can be one of the most divisive and complex steps in the divorce process. It can be even more complicated when it comes to something that takes on far more meaning than a piece of property.

For instance, did you know that in the eyes of the law, pets are property in North Carolina? This means that courts can treat your dog, cat or other animal, as if it were a piece of furniture during a divorce. If you want to avoid this, you can take steps to resolve the matter outside of the court.

Deciding custody with your ex

Often, pet owners are able to work out a custody plan themselves or in mediation sessions. Resolving the issue yourselves can be beneficial for at least a few reasons.

First, it avoids the added expense and time of bringing an issue to court. Second, it allows you to retain more control over the resolution, and be more creative in the solution. Third, it is more likely to result in an arrangement with which everyone can be happy, especially your pet.

Finding the right plan

Depending on your specific circumstances, you could create a pet custody plan that looks similar to a child custody plan, with each party spending a certain amount of time with the pet. You might alternate weeks or months, or you might align the pet's schedule with the children's schedule, should that be an option.

If you do not want to share custody or ownership, you can decide who keeps the animal based on different factors including, who took care of the pet, who originally acquired the pet and which person the pet prefers. Living situations and financial resources can also play a role in assigning ownership.

It is possible that these resolutions could come from a pet-friendly judge, but there is no guarantee, since the law identifies pets as property. Though, it is possible that that could change in the future, especially considering laws in at least one other state changed recently to allow courts to make decisions regarding pet ownership, or custody.

As it stands today, though, resolving pet issues outside of court and with legal support could be in your -- and your pet's -- best interests.

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Raleigh Divorce Law Firm

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