Pets are more than just an animal. They are a part of the family by providing love, comfort, and companionship to their owners. When a family is faced with divorce, it isn’t easy to decide who will get the beloved family pet. Are they considered to be a part of the family, or are they just property? Our Somerset County divorce lawyers are here to explain what New Jersey law has to say about pets of divorce.
New Jersey and Pets of Divorce
In some states, there are specific laws that make it clear that pets are more than just property.
Unfortunately, that’s not the case in New Jersey. While you may think of your family pet as much more than some piece of property you own, the court doesn’t. Instead, pets are considered to be personal property, meaning the care of the animal will be decided upon in property division.
These guidelines raise a big question - How does the court decide who will get the pet then? The answer to this depends on what factors the court will and will not consider.
The court will not consider:
Who primarily takes care of the pet
Does the pet have a better relationship with one spouse over the other
The court, however, will consider:
Who originally purchased the pet
Was the pet purchased before or during the marriage
Who has paid for the majority of veterinary bills, food, general care, etc.
These factors will help the court determine who has invested the most income into the pet. If the pet was purchased by one party before the marriage, it could possibly be considered separate property.
Determining who will take the pet after a divorce through this method can be concerning for pet owners. However, there are other options for deciding who will get the pet.
Obtaining Pet Custody
Even though there are not any legal guidelines for pet custody, there are potential solutions that you and your Somerset County divorce lawyer can explore. First, if you have more than one animal, you could split them up. You take one, and they take the other. Ideally, this works best when there are even numbers of pets. However, it is a worthwhile compromise to try.
Another option is that you and your ex-spouse could try sharing custody, where you take turns keeping the pet in your home. This may be the perfect solution for your issues, but some animals may have trouble adapting to this.
You can also try negotiating for custody. If you really want to keep your pet, you can offer a trade of something that is equally or more valuable. Be careful doing this as it can easily backfire.
One more thing you can opt for is getting a “pet-nup.” This is more of a preventative measure that would require you to decide this early on in the marriage. A pet-nup is basically a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that explicitly states who will get the family pet in the event of a divorce. This would ensure there were no doubts about who has pet custody.
If you have questions about property division and divorce, contact DeTommaso Law Group today at (908) 274-3028.