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Pets and divorce cases

North Carolina residents entering the lengthy process of divorce are often unprepared to battle for ownership of the family pets. While animals are generally treated as property in most divorce cases, some of the factors that courts take into consideration are very similar to those made in child custody cases.

For example, courts may consider which spouse has taken care of the pets in the past. The court may listen to evidence by neighbors who saw one person regularly walk the dog or from a veterinarian who testifies that he or she saw only one of the spouses bring the pet in when it was sick. The court may also consider which spouse has more time and opportunities to provide for the pet. For instance, a stay-at-home parent may have an advantage over a doctor who is on call. If the court awarded child custody to one parent, it may follow suit by awarding a well-integrated family pet to that same party.

Although property is often divided based on its monetary value, one spouse in this type of case may use the situation as leverage. If one party has a strong connection to the family dog, they may refuse to dispute ownership of the pet, opting to relinquish a right of other property in order to stay with the pet. Often, this second property has a higher monetary value than that of the family pet.

Individuals who are going through custody disputes over family pets may decide to consult with a family law attorney. A lawyer might be able to help gather evidence in their client's favor.

Source: Forbes, "How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?", Jeff Landers , April 17, 2014

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