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What to know about creating a pet custody plan in New Jersey?

For many, pets are considered members of their family. That said, divorcing couples often wonder what happens to their beloved furry friend in the event of a divorce. Some states enforce pet custody laws that protect the best interests of companion animals. However, other states consider pets personal property. Regardless of whether your state has pet custody laws, one of the best ways to protect your relationship with your companion animal and prioritize your pet’s best interests is to create a pet custody plan. If a divorce is imminent and you are worried about what will happen you your pet, contact a trusted ​​Ocean County Property Division Attorney who can help you navigate your legal options. Please continue reading to learn why you should create a pet custody plan. 

Does New Jersey have pet custody laws?

In some states, courts enforce pet custody laws in the event of a divorce or separation that protect the best interests of a companion animal, similar to how they would when determining a child custody order. However, New Jersey does not have pet custody laws, meaning companion animals are subject to equitable distribution. This means pets are considered property that must be divided between spouses. Nevertheless, although they are regarded as personal property, they cannot be divided between divorcing couples like other possessions. That said, companion animals are awarded to only one of the divorcing parties, as New Jersey has no joint custody or visitation rights and no established pet custody laws. If you are worried you will not be awarded your beloved companion animal during property distribution, you should consider creating a pet custody agreement.

Why should I create a pet custody plan?

It would be considered separate property if your former spouse acquired your pet outside the marriage. Separate property is not subject to equitable distribution. Therefore, you’ll have to part ways with your companion animal forever. However, if the pet was acquired during the marriage, it will be considered marital property. With this, the court will consider the emotional attachment to family pets to determine which spouse should be awarded the companion animal. Nevertheless, you should create a pet custody agreement to ensure you can keep your companion animal after a divorce.

A pet custody agreement is similar to a prenuptial agreement. In a pet custody agreement, you can stipulate rotating custody plans, who will be responsible for vet costs and other pet-related issues. In most cases, if you can reach a mutual agreement outside of court regarding these issues, the judge can enforce this legal contract. When creating a pet custody plan, you must consider the pet’s best interests and determine who the pet is better suited to living with, as, in some cases, pets have a hard time adjusting to rotating homes. It is essential to compromise and work with your former spouse to create a plan that allows you to spend quality time with the companion animal.

If you are undergoing a divorce, contact a trusted Ocean Country property division attorney from the Law Office of Sarina Gianna, LLC today, who can help you settle on a pet custody plan.