Oftentimes, divorcing couples dispute over issues of child custody, child support, spousal support, and property division. However, they also argue over who gets to keep the family pet after the divorce. Couples often regard pets as family members and treasure them as if they were their children. In some states, there are pet custody laws that require a judge to consider the pet’s best interests similarly to how they would a child’s best interests when determining a child custody order. However, in other states, pets are deemed personal property and are subject to property division. Keep reading to learn how pet custody is handled in a New Jersey divorce and discover how a determined Ocean County Property Division Attorney can help you navigate this complex legal process today.
Can I fight for pet custody in a New Jersey divorce?
Traditionally, companion animals have been treated as property, the same way a couch or a lamp would be treated in a divorce. However, in other states, pet custody laws require a judge to consider the pets’ best interests similar to child custody cases. New Jersey has not established pet custody laws like in other states. That means, when a couple dissolves their marriage, the court treats the pet as a piece of personal property to be awarded to one of the parties. New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. Therefore, the companion animal is subject to equitable distribution. Under an equitable distribution system, courts divide marital property equitably between both parties, not necessarily in an even 50/50 split. It is important to note that since pets are considered personal property, there are no joint custody or visitation rights involved in a divorce. This means one spouse will have to part ways with the pet forever.
When it comes to the division of assets only marital property is subject to equitable distribution. That being said if the pet was bought during the marriage it will be considered marital property. However, if the pet was bought by one of the spouses outside of the marriage, the companion animal will be considered separate property. If a pet is considered separate property it will not be subject to equitable distribution and the spouse who purchased the pet will get to keep the animal after the divorce. Although New Jersey does not have pet custody laws in place the court can still consider several factors including which party has a strong attachment to the pet. Typically, this occurs when the couple has children as children often grow strong emotional attachments to family pets. Ultimately, devising a fair custody agreement outside of court is the best option to preserve your relationship with your pet.
If you are seeking custody of your pet, you need a determined Ocean County property division attorney on your side. Although companion animals are considered property, courts can consider some factors that can improve your chances of being able to keep the pet after a divorce. Allow our firm to represent your interests today to achieve the best possible outcome.