At Miller Bowles Cushing, we often have people ask us if North Carolina divorce courts can award them custody of their family dog. Now, we have some guidance from the North Carolina Court of Appeals about how we can handle this issue.
In a recent trial, the judge attempted to award the family dog to one of the spouses in the equitable distribution trial - the trial that deals with marital property. The idea was that the dog does not fall under the child custody laws of our state, so in order for the court to address who the dog would go to, it would have to be under the equitable distribution laws.
The trial court awarded the family dogs to one of the spouses, and the losing spouse appealed the trial court's decision. The case was eventually was heard by the North Carolina Court of Appeals, where the Justices said that the trial court "erred" by not assigning a value to the dogs before awarding them to one of the spouses.
Valuation of assets is one of the key steps in an equitable distribution trial. So, the result here is that the trial court has to hold another trial just for the purpose of determining the value of the dogs. Equitable distribution trials can cost several thousand dollars, and appeals are often even more costly. This begs the question: how much are those dogs really worth? For dog lovers, the answer is simple: priceless.
Have you decided to leave your spouse? Do you expect a legal dispute over who will get custody of your pet? If so, call us today at (704) 810-1400 to request your consultation with one of our experienced lawyers at Miller Bowles Cushing.