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Pet ownership and custody after divorce in North Carolina: Who gets the dog?

We all have a connection to our animals. However, what happens to the animals if a couple gets divorced?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A pet is a part of the family. Whether it's a dog, cat or even a fish, we all have a connection to our animals. However, what happens to the animals if a couple gets divorced?


In North Carolina, can you fight for custody of your pet in court? 


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No, in North Carolina, you can't fight for custody of your pet in court since it's considered property. But you could reach an agreement outside of court to divide the pet's time between the two former spouses.

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According to North Carolina law, pets are considered property. Miller said that while many pet owners treat their furry animals like children, the law does not see it that way. 

"They are going to say, 'OK, when was the pet acquired? Was it acquired during the marriage?'" Miller said. "If it was, then it is marital property."

The court will look at the value of the pet to determine who it should be given to, however, Miller said there are ways outside of the courtroom to share a pet after divorce. 

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"Typically, when we are dealing with dog custody, we are going to put something in an out-of-court contract between the two dog parents, so to speak, and that's going to be the document that provides for whatever previsions they can agree to," Miller said. 

She said that a separate contract can divide up vet costs and visitation schedules. 

Contact Meghan Bragg at mbragg@wcnc.com and follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.


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