In North Carolina, pet custody is determined by state laws governing marital property. As such, pets are considered the same as other household goods like furniture and jewelry. In determining the value of a pet, the court considers only fair market value of the pet and does not factor in emotional or sentimental attachment.
In accordance with the equitable distribution process, the pet is first classified as marital or separate property. If it is marital property, the pet will be valued and awarded to one spouse while the other spouse will receive credit for that value. If the pet belonged to one spouse before the marriage or one spouse can prove the pet was a gift from a third party, it will be classified as separate property and will be awarded to that spouse.
If there has been an issue of domestic violence in the marriage, the courts treat the award of pets differently. North Carolina law now allows pets to be covered by domestic violence protective orders and in a divorce settlement, the judge will normally award the pet to the victimized spouse if there is evidence the offending spouse engaged in cruel behavior toward the pet as well as toward his or her spouse.