“My goal in life is to be as good of a person as my pet already thinks I am.” Pets are more than just animals, they are family members. Once a pet comes into your life, it is only natural that you fall in love with them. But what happens to these four-legged family members when a divorce occurs?

When you are going through a divorce, it is only natural for pets to become even more significant because they are able to give us back that unconditional love through such a traumatic time. One spouse wants the pet to go with them and the other wants to keep them as well which can often escalate into a high conflict situation. Often time’s spouses without children put on a bigger battle for their pets, than even property distribution.

This often turns into an emotionally charged situation when dealing with divorce in North Carolina. There are some states that, in fact, treat pets like children. They will have custody schedules agreed upon, which is very similar to dealing with human children. However, North Carolina is not like this. A pet is treated just like a car or a house or any other item of property, so the judge will not lay out a schedule and will, in fact, say that the pet belongs to either the husband or the wife and there will be no further discussion about it.

That doesn’t mean that is how it has to end. In fact, when you are not in a courtroom, and that is where most decisions are reached, an agreement between the spouses can occur. There is nothing that would prohibit us from coming up with a visitation plan or schedule with the animals that even though the court wouldn’t do it, the parties are permitted to do it by agreement.

If an agreement is not met, then the court will step in and give the pet to one spouse over the other. Now I know that’s gut-wrenching and difficult, but in our experience, having one spouse take the animal and the other spouse adjust is probably, for the long term the way to go. It is typically a clean break, but if you think you can work with your spouse to reach an agreement and co-parent your pet we would be happy to assist you with an agreement best suited for your four-legged friend.