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How do you divide pets in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Aug 23, 2023 | Divorce

Divorce is a complex and often painful process that involves dividing assets and responsibilities. Among the many difficult decisions is determining the fate of family pets. In many households, pets are just like family members, and deciding who gets custody can be as emotional as decisions about children.

New Jersey has specific guidelines for how to handle the division of pets in a divorce. While pets were once considered property, attitudes and laws have evolved to recognize the emotional connection between people and their pets. Explore the factors that influence how courts divide pets in a New Jersey divorce.

Consider the best interest of the pet

Unlike child custody, where the focus is on the best interest of the child, pet custody considers what is best for the pet. This can include assessing who primarily cared for the pet, the living arrangements and the financial ability to provide for the pet’s needs.

Opt for joint ownership and visitation

Some couples choose to share ownership of the pet, much like joint custody of a child. This can include a schedule for visitation and shared responsibilities for the pet’s care. This arrangement requires cooperation and may not be suitable for all situations.

Document agreements

If you and your spouse can agree on the custody of the pet, documenting this agreement can prevent future disputes. A clear and detailed written agreement that outlines responsibilities and expectations can make the transition smoother for both you and your pet.

Let the court decide

If you and your spouse cannot agree on the custody of the pet, the court may make the decision for you. The court may consider factors such as who purchased the pet, who primarily cared for it and what living arrangements will best suit the pet’s needs.

Dividing pets in a divorce is not just a legal matter; it is an emotional one as well. Consider the feelings of all family members, including children, when making decisions about pets. Pets often sense stress and changes in their environment, so whatever decision you make, strive to minimize disruption and provide reassurance and stability for your furry family member. Try to make the transition as smooth as possible.


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