Pet Custody: Who Gets the Dog in a Divorce?

Pet custody is a tricky situation that often comes up during divorce proceedings. Pets are loving members of the family for lots of couples. Determining what should happen to them in a divorce can get very complicated. A lot depends on how the pet is owned. There are different types of ownership – marital property and separate property. If one spouse already owned the dog, then it’s somewhat easier to determine. However, if the couple bought the dog jointly, things can get more complicated. Sometimes split custody is the arrangement that everybody agrees on. And finally, if you have children who are close to the dog, it can affect the outcome as well. Divorce is complicated, but hopefully, you will figure out a way to handle the family pet fairly.

Pet Custody: Who Gets the Dog in a Divorce?

Types of Property Ownership

Pet custody often comes down to when and how the family got the pet. In many states, there are two types of property ownership: marital and separate property. Marital property is anything that you both bought together as a couple. It can also include things you bought during your marriage. Separate property includes things that you bring into the marriage. It can also include gifts or things that you inherited during the course of your marriage.

An Animal Owned Before Marriage

If you or your spouse already owned the pet before you got married, pet custody is a little more cut and dry. In this situation, the pet usually goes to its original owner. However, often couples purchase a pet together. In these situations, it can be much more complicated. A judge would look at several factors to determine who gets the pet.

Pets and Children

One of the factors that a judge might look at to determine pet custody is the custody of the children. If children are particularly close to a pet, it can be especially important. Oftentimes, a judge will want what is best for the children. In a time when things are a bit stressful and up in the air, a family pet can keep kids calmer. The pet might go to the parent who spends the most time with the children.

Joint Custody

Another outcome that is less common in pet custody situations is joint custody. This is where a pet would split its time between two spouses. This doesn’t often happen in North Carolina because most judges consider pets as property. However, if a couple jointly decides that this is what they want, they can include it in their separation agreement. They can also decide on visitation. Pet custody can be a complicated and emotional aspect of divorce. Unfortunately, along with the rest of the stress of divorce, people often forget that they’ll have to figure out what happens with their favorite pets. A lot depends on whether the pet is marital or separate property. If one spouse comes into the marriage with the pet, then they usually will get it in a divorce. In contrast, if the spouses buy the pet together it can get much more complicated. If they can agree to joint custody and visitation this can be part of their separation agreement. Otherwise, a judge will decide. Often judges will take the pet’s relationship with the family children into account as well. Hopefully, you’ll be able to come to an agreement that works for everybody and can keep your relationship with your loving pet.