New Jersey Family Law Blog
Pet Custody and Divorce
For many families, their dog, cat, or any other kind of pet is more than just a pet, it is a member of the family. As difficult as resolving divorce issues such as child custody, child support, alimony, or marital asset division can sometimes be, deciding “pet custody” can often be just as difficult to do.
In fact, in a 2014 survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, it was found that pet custody disputes and pet custody hearings during divorce had increased by an impressive 22%. Clearly, pet custody is an important issue for many families, so if you are a pet owner going through a divorce, here is some important information for you regarding how pet custody is decided, and what you can do towards securing custody of your dog, cat, or other pet during your divorce.
Divorce and Pet Custody Lawyers, Madison, NJ
While pet owners often view their pet as a family member, the law sees things differently. When it comes to pets and pet ownership, the law as it stands views pets as property, rather than individuals.
This means that when ruling on pet custody during divorce, a court will only consider things like which party originally bought the pet, or which party traditionally paid for its expenses such as food or veterinary bills. Things like which individual the pet has a stronger relationship with, or which side of the bed your dog sleeps on will not be taken into account if it is left to the courts to decide pet custody during divorce.
However, while the court will be fairly inflexible in this matter, there are a number of different options available when it comes to securing custody of your pet during divorce if you were not the original owner of your pet.
Securing Pet Custody during a Morris County Divorce
So while the law is quite clear when it comes to how a court will decide pet custody, that doesn’t necessarily mean you have to leave it up to the courts to make this decision. If retaining the custody of your pet is important to you, you and your Morris County divorce lawyers can make concessions in other areas of your divorce settlement agreements in exchange for custody of your dog, cat, or other type of pet. What those concessions are depends a great deal upon how important pet custody ultimately is to you, and the skill of your divorce attorney when it comes to effective negotiations.
Conversely, some couples have found success with “shared pet custody.” While not every pet will be able to handle rotating between homes and owners, many others are quite capable of such an arrangement, and shared pet custody can allow both parties to maintain their relationship with their pet after a divorce.
Finally, many people are now creating “pet prenuptials,” or adding terms regarding the custody of a pet to their prenuptial agreement. While this may seem excessive to non-pet owners, anyone who has a close relationship with their pet will certainly understand the desire to protect this relationship, and including pet custody as part of your prenuptial agreement can save a great deal of time, money, and stress if pet custody ever becomes a disputed issue.
Contact Our Morris County Divorce and Pet Custody Attorneys Today
At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys have extensive experience finding creative, effective, and constructive solutions to divorce and family law issues of all kinds for clients in towns across New Jersey and Morris County, including Madison, Randolph, Denville, Florham Park, Hanover, Tewksbury, Morris Township, and Morristown.
The unique approach of our firm focuses on resolving issues through negotiation before resorting to more aggressive courtroom litigation. This allows our clients and their families to protect all they have already worked to achieve, while simultaneously setting the foundation for healthy and protected legal, financial, and familial futures.
To speak with our attorney team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding a prenuptial agreement, a divorce, or how we can help you to retain custody of your pet during a divorce, please contact us online, or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 718-7705.