Our dogs and cats are part of our family, right? They do not just represent property to be divided, right? Actually, in North Carolina, pets are considered property and as such our courts will divide your pets in the same manner as they might divide your vehicles. I know this seems callous, but our laws in North Carolina, like many other states, has not taken the step that Alaska has. Recently, Alaska passed an amendment to its divorce statutes to take “into consideration the well-being of the animal” in divorce proceedings. This amendment by the Alaska Legislature was the first of its kind and is pretty cutting edge. Alaska’s legislation specifically empowers the courts to assign joint custody of pets, instead of dividing pets between the parties as a property right. This legislation in Alaska will now allow Courts to treat pets like children in divorce proceedings and make decisions that are in the pet’s best interest.
Despite the fact that North Carolina does not have legislation warranting a court’s consideration of what is in the best interest of your pet, you, as the pet owners can and should still consider what is best for your pet. Your Separation Agreement may very well contain provisions regarding “Pet Custody.” The terms should include a custody/visitation schedule and any financial arrangements. Pets are very important to people, and many of us consider them as a member of our family. So, when you are negotiating terms as they relate to your separation, don’t forget to negotiate what happens to your pet!