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More judges ruling on pet issues as custody matters in divorce

Every New Jersey couple who files papers to end a marriage brings a unique set of circumstances to the court's attention. Divorce proceedings never unfold the exact same way twice, as each relationship is unique and though similar issues may exist between two sets of spouses, it does not necessarily mean the two outcomes will be the same. A particularly complicated issue involves pets.

Pets are technically property; however, several states have adopted laws or statutes that address pet disputes in divorce as custody issues rather than topics for property division proceedings. Because of the unique nature of a relationship between a pet and its owner, some states have allowed spouses to petition the court for custody of a dog, cat or other animal when a marital break-up occurs. A case in one state, in fact, involved a woman who hired an attorney to fight for custody of a dog she said her spouse had given to her as a Christmas gift but was trying to take from her when they divorced.

California is a state that has adopted pet custody guidelines. Judges may now consider factors, such as who bore more of the pet care responsibilities during marriage and which spouse spent more time with a pet to determine what is best for the pet in question. When best interests are being considered, it definitely becomes a custody rather than property division issue.

If a New Jersey spouses anticipates a pet dispute in divorce, he or she can prepare for litigation by discussing the problem with an experienced family law attorney before heading to court. With any petition for custody, a judge will want to see evidence that the request being made aligns with what is best for the child or pet in question. An experience attorney can help a concerned parent or pet owner build a strong case.

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