During a New Jersey Divorce, Who Gets Pet Custody?

tan puppy

If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, you likely have many questions surrounding the process. From wondering who will receive the family home to whether or not alimony will be awarded, there are many considerations that must be made. However, none of these may seem as important as ensuring you retain pet custody. Keep reading to learn how the courts determine which spouse will keep the pet and discover how Hudson County divorce attorneys can help you through this complex process.

How Is Pet Custody Determined?

It’s essential to understand how pet custody is handled during divorce. Unlike child custody, pets are considered property in New Jersey, as there are no laws on how these instances should be handled. However, judges recognize that pets are living beings and will not treat them as furniture or property.

Even though there are no laws on how these instances will be handled, more and more courts are recognizing the emotional value attached to pets and take that into consideration, along with other factors.

Generally, if the pet was acquired before the marriage, the judge will award custody to whichever party owned the pet first. Only in certain circumstances, such as neglect or abuse, will a judge grant the other spouse custody.

What Influences a Court’s Decision?

When a couple acquires a pet after marriage, it is not uncommon for custody of an animal to be a highly contentious issue. As such, the judge will consider the following factors:

  • Who is financially responsible for the pet
  • Who provides primary care (feeding, walking, playing)
  • If the couple has children, who will receive primary custody (this is usually one of the most important factors)
  • Who the pet has a stronger bond with
  • Which party has space in their home and yard to support a pet
  • The work schedule and job demands of both parties

When presented with these factors, among other considerations, the courts will determine which party will retain custody of the pet. Just like the courts can award joint or sole custody for children, they may enact the same standard for pets. However, factors like how far the parties live from each other can hinder the ability to share custody of a pet, as travel can be anxiety-inducing for many animals.

If you are arguing that the pet is better off in your care, it’s essential to do your best to document instances of bonding with your pet. For example, your cat may sleep on the chair next to you as you work, or you may have pictures of the time you spend in the park with your pup.

At Greenberg & Walden, our dedicated legal team understands that pets play an integral role in your family. As such, we will help fight for custody of your furry friend. Contact us today to connect with a member of our competent firm to discuss the details of your case.

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