Located in Charlotte, North Carolina

Deciding Who Gets the Pet(s) in a Divorce

In North Carolina divorces, property is divided equitably—in a way that is fair and just to both parties. For this purpose, property is classified into one of two categories.

Separate property is what each party brought into the marriage or received during the marriage as a gift or inheritance. Separate property is protected and the party who owns the property will walk away with it as their own, without being subjected to equitable division.

Marital property, on the other hand, can be awarded to either party. This property includes assets that were acquired by spouses while they were married. If you and your soon-to-be-ex-spouse cannot work out how to divide marital property, then the court will decide. In determining how property will be divided, courts consider:

  • Tax consequences
  • How long a couple has been married
  • Each spouse’s age
  • Each spouse’s current health
  • Each party’s income
  • What each partner contributed to the marital property (in terms of the initial purchase and maintenance)
  • What assets each spouse will walk away with after the divorce is finalized

Pets Are Considered Assets in a Divorce

Legally, pets are considered property. If one person owned the family pet before the marriage, then the pet is classified as separate property and will likely stay with the original owner. If the family pet was purchased during the union, the pet will be classified as marital property.

If a couple lived together before marriage and got the pet together at this time, the animal may be considered marital property. If one spouse gifted the pet to the other, it may also be considered marital property since marital funds were likely used to purchase the pet. In these special circumstances, it is up to the court to classify the pet as marital property and determine who will retain ownership in divorce.

How to Ensure You Get the Family Pet(s)

According to North Carolina General Statute § 50-20, couples can draft pre- or postnuptial agreements that address property division that is fair and equitable to both parties. Postnuptial agreements are beneficial for both parties. One of the many benefits of a “postnup” is that you and your partner can protect your assets and agree on how property will be divided in the event of divorce.

In drafting the terms of your agreement, you and your partner can work out the following details:

  • Who will get residential custody of the pet
  • If the non-custodial party will have “visitation rights”
  • A visitation schedule, including how the pet will be transported to and from visits, as well as details about how time will be split
  • If major medical decisions (like surgery or euthanasia) will be made jointly or solely by one party
  • How pet expenses (i.e., food, grooming, toys, daycare, funeral arrangements) will be shared (if at all)

“Postnups” are enforceable contracts if they are properly drawn up, which is why you should enlist the help of our attorneys. Postnuptial agreement can be disputed if:

  • It is not in writing.
  • Either party was coerced to sign.
  • Either party withheld information about their financial situation (in terms of debts and assets).

Without a postnuptial agreement, your next option is to work out your divorce and/or property division with your partner out of court. If you and your partner struggle to communicate constructively, you can consider mediation, which involves a neutral third party that helps guide the conversation. With the help of a mediator, you and your partner can outline how you will share “pet custody,” agreeing on the same terms that can be included in a postnuptial agreement.

Contact Our Family Law Attorneys

At Rech Law, P.C., we understand how much pets feel like family. Having a support system after your divorce is important. We will fight to ensure that you keep your furry loved ones as a part of your post-divorce support system. Our attorneys have been serving the Charlotte area since 2010, and we are known for our excellent communication skills, devotion to our clients, and our stellar track record.

If you are seeking legal representation in your divorce, contact Rech Law, P.C. via our online form or at (704) 659-0007. We have an aggressive yet compassionate legal approach, and we will fight for you.

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