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Pets and divorce

On Behalf of | Jun 21, 2021 | Divorce

There is one question taking priority in many divorces nowadays: who will keep the family pet? Pet owners love their dogs and cats like members of their own families. They treat them as such too. Therefore, it is no wonder why many people worry about what happens to their pets if they divorce.

Divorces involving disputes over pets seem only to be increasing, especially among millennials.

Why “pet custody” questions are becoming a primary concern

Determining who keeps the family pet – or even creating a sort of schedule to divide time with pets – is already a major issue in many divorces. Even so, it could take even more precedence in divorce proceedings as time goes on.

The love that people have for their pets is certainly one of the reasons that questions about their welfare and ownership has become a significant issue. There are a few other particular reasons the issue of who keeps the pets will become even more common, including:

  1. During the pandemic, pet adoptions increased exponentially; and
  2. More and more younger couples are choosing to adopt pets over having children

Neither of these relates to the rates or likelihood of couples seeking a divorce. Even so, both of these trends could influence the prevalence of “pet custody” cases in the future.

The rise of “pup-nups” illustrates families’ priorities

All pets are still considered property under North Carolina law. Therefore, “pet custody” is not a matter family courts can decide. They will treat the pet as property but may also consider certain factors in the pet’s best interests. In North Carolina and other states without a pet custody standard, it is usually down to the spouses to negotiate an agreement out of court if they wish to split their time with the pet.

The concern over pets in divorce, as well as their classification as property, is also resulting in a rising trend of “pup-nups” or “petnups.” More married couples are directly addressing what will happen to their pets in prenuptial agreements because they fear the disputes they might face in the event of a divorce.

Worrying about pets is valid, especially in a divorce. The welfare of our pets is without a doubt an emotional family issue, but this trend shows it is becoming a significant legal issue as well. A handful of states have passed pet custody laws, and as this trend increases, more legal guidelines about this issue will likely follow.