Pets and divorce: is there such thing as “dog custody”?

We all know that divorcing parents must work out a child custody plan or have the court do it if they cannot agree. Dogs, cats and other pets are not the same things as children. But many people love and dote on their pets almost as if they are human. When pet owners get divorced, it could happen that neither spouse wants to give up their relationship with Tiger or Rex.

If you were wondering, North Carolina’s divorce law does not have a “pet custody” law. Though they are living creatures, pets are considered “chattel,” or personal possessions. Just like other chattels like furniture and clothing, they are marital assets. Who gets to keep them is part of the property division process. You cannot fight in court for custody rights over a pet.

Settlement is possible

That does not mean that divorcing couples cannot get creative when it comes to sharing “custody.” If you and your ex can negotiate an agreement out of court, you can put a kind of unofficial “pet custody” arrangement in writing as part of your divorce decree. This could mean your pet splits time between your homes, or that one party keeps the animal at their home while the other has permission to come over regularly to walk or play with it. If your relationship is still cordial, maybe the two of you could meet with the pet at a neutral location, like the park, for some quality time.

Because every family is unique, divorce does not have to be the same in every case. Careful consideration and creative solutions can help you work out a settlement that fits your priorities and helps you turn the page.