Pet-Nups for Pet Ownership in a Divorce

Posted by Josh Valentine | Jan 23, 2020

Prenuptial agreements can be helpful for couples to plan for how property is treated if the couple ever gets a divorce. Increasingly, individuals are concerned about pet ownership in a divorce. So-called “pet-nups” could provide for pet ownership when a married couple separates. 

If you have any questions about pet ownership, property division, or alimony after a divorce, talk to your North Carolina family law attorneys for help. 

Prenuptial Agreements for Pets

A “pet-nup” is like a prenuptial agreement that determines where a pet goes if the couple splits up. This can be a good option for couples hoping to avoid a divorce dispute. Disputes over pet ownership are increasingly common in divorces. Younger married couples are more likely to also be pet owners than in the past, which could mean pet custody disputes will continue to rise.

According to a survey in the U.K, almost a quarter of all divorces involved a conflict over pets. A prenuptial agreement spells out the division of property in advance, it can help reduce or eliminate the time, stress, and expense of a legal battle around what happens with a pet after the marriage ends.

While many people consider pets to be members of the family, they are still generally treated as property by the court. The best option for pet owners is to decide what to do between the divorcing couple instead of leaving it up to the court. Even if the couple does not have a pre-nup and cannot seem to agree on who gets the pet, mediation may help the individuals come to a mutually agreeable solution for pet ownership after the break-up. 

Pet Custody After a Divorce in North Carolina

Pet custody after a divorce in North Carolina is generally best decided by the individuals involved. However, if the divorcing couple cannot come up with their own plan for pet ownership, the court may decide who gets the animal. Like other property, pet ownership may be determined by whether the animal is treated as marital property or separate property. 

Marital property generally includes possessions and assets acquired by spouses during a marriage. Separate property is acquired before a marriage, or during the marriage as a gift or inheritance from an outside party. If a spouse owned the animal before marriage, that spouse will generally be given custody of the pet. 

A pet that is given as a gift to someone during the marriage may be presumed to be marital property if it is received during the marriage unless the person who gave the gift intended the gift to be given solely to one person. 

If one spouse gives a puppy, kitten, or another animal to the other spouse, that is generally considered marital property. Even if the spouse intended to give the animal only to the spouse, it may be considered marital property because the money used to buy the animal was likely out of marital funds. 

Children and Pets

If the couple also has children, the court may take that into account when determining which individual keeps the pet. A family pet will likely go with the custodial parent when it is in the best interests of the child. 

Shelby Divorce and Prenuptial Agreement Lawyers

Individuals considering a prenuptial agreement can benefit from the experienced legal advice that the skilled attorneys at Caulder & Valentine have to offer. Contact us today for a consultation.

About the Author

Josh Valentine

You could say Josh has a God-given ability for sustaining long-term relationships. He and his wife first met in elementary school and went to Gardner Webb University (GWU) together, where they tied for number 1 in their class. Then, they both started law school on the same day of their graduation and got married during their first semester. He has also known his law partner Blake Caulder since Kindergarten. Theirs is the perfect partnership. “He’s the brake; I am the accelerator,” Josh says. Both Josh and his wife attended an innovative program at Charlotte Law School that allowed them to complete law school in two years instead of the typical three. His wife graduated and passed the North Carolina bar at age 20, becoming one of the youngest attorneys in the state. He readily admits she’s smarter than him. Of course, Josh went on to pass the North Carolina State Bar himself and later the South Carolina State Bar. While in school, he was Associate Editor of the Law Review and received accolades like Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society membership, Order of the Crown, Pro Bono Honors, CALI Awards (highest grade). In his career as a lawyer, he has been admitted to the United States Federal Court for the Western District of North Carolina, is a member of the American Association of Premier DUI Attorneys, and completed training for DWI Detection & Standardized Field Sobriety Testing. Josh has also been named to the Top 40 Under 40 for Criminal Defense by The National Trial Lawyers, the Business North Carolina 2019 Legal Elite for Criminal Defense, and the 10 Best Attorneys for Client Satisfaction by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys three years in a row (2016, 2017, and 2018). Community involvement has been important to Josh all his life. In high school, he participated in building a Holocaust museum that has become internationally regarded. He and his wife are actively engaged in animal rescue, which currently means seven cats and two kittens. He served in prison ministry and assisted with fundraiser banquets there, and he provides pro bono and reduced fee legal services to those in need. As if all of that weren’t enough, Josh also mentors high risk youth and helps with his church’s youth group. He participates in other community volunteer projects involving construction, remodeling, drywall, painting, and landscaping. He’s an active student of the Bible and has traveled to Israel, Brazil, and Europe for mission work. No one can say Josh isn’t a well-rounded individual. In his spare time, he likes to play softball, basketball, and tennis, and he can play the piano and trombone. Sometimes on weekends, believe it or not, he enjoys pouring and finishing concrete with friends who own a concrete and grading business. In his law practice, Josh has made it a point to develop positive relationships with officers, clerks, and district attorneys, which has proven invaluable in delivering positive results for his clients. It’s important to him to both listen to his clients and fight for them. Law enforcement officers have important responsibilities to keep our communities safe and uphold the law, but one of the responsibilities of attorneys is to make sure officers do their job correctly. Josh considers it his job to hold them accountable for their actions. Josh is a person of deep faith. He knows that the established order of our universe and strength of America’s Judeo-Christian influenced court system is built on God’s word. His passion to serve each client with innovation, excellence and integrity is a byproduct of his faith. When asked why he became a lawyer, Josh says, “All through my life, I have personally witnessed family members and very close friends endure divorce, child custody battles, bankruptcy, civil lawsuits, and even fraudulent criminal accusations. I both saw and experienced the stress such events can place on an individual, and I realized that everyone, at some point in their life, needs hope, comfort, and encouragement. In each one of those situations, the person who was best situated to provide that vital support was their lawyer. So that’s why I became an attorney. I understand what you are going through, and I’m here to help you. Our office is focused on meeting your needs and guiding you through what may be the most difficult time of your life.” Education: Charlotte School of Law J.D., Magna Cum Laude Class Rank – 21 of 328 Associate Editor of Charlotte School of Law Law Review Certification and Concentration in Employment Law Phi Delta Phi International Legal Honor Society Order of the Crown Pro Bono Honors CALI Awards (Highest Grade)—Lawyering Process I and Contracts I Full Scholarship Gardner-Webb University B.S. in Accounting, Summa Cum Laude Distinguished Senior Student Award – Highest GPA Alpha Sigma Lambda National Honorary Society Bar Admissions: North Carolina State Bar