When you and you spouse divorce, you must split all your assets and property. It takes time to decide who will keep what furniture, household items and more. What trips up many couples is deciding who will keep your family dog. Does the law impact that decision at all?

Family pets viewed as property

You and your spouse probably both have a close tie to your family dog. If you have children, they likely do too. However, in North Carolina (and most states), the law treats your family dog as another piece of property, just like sporting equipment or a vehicle. You and your spouse must come to an agreement as to who will keep any family pets.

Sometimes, that means the family dog stays with whomever is keeping the marital home, to avoid your dog needing to adjust to another home. Sometimes, that means giving up the dog to avoid fighting over it.

States that view pets differently

Because owners often see their pets as another member of the family, some states are changing the law about what happens to family pets in divorce. California, in 2018, passed a law that allows a judge to evaluate the pet’s health and welfare when deciding who will keep it in divorce. It also allows for families to choose joint custody for their pet.

Alaska and Illinois also have laws where a judge can consider a pet’s health and welfare during asset division in a divorce.

Going through a divorce can be an emotional roller coaster. You may really want the comfort of your dog at this time. Keep in mind that you still can have that even if you allow your soon-to-be-ex share custody of the family dog.