dogs are now considered in divorce casesWhile there are no specifically established rules in New Jersey regarding who keeps a pet after a divorce, the issue is becoming more common. In fact, some surveys suggest that nearly one-quarter of lawyers have seen a significant increase in divorce cases were custody over a pet has been an issue.

With the rise in cases, judges are beginning to view pets in a more similar light to children as opposed to inanimate possessions. Until recently, pets were treated the same as property and were referred to as such in divorce proceedings in New Jersey. With complaints from the ASPCA and the Humane Society, that language is beginning to change, with more factors weighing into custody decisions for dogs, cats, birds, fish and other pet companions.

Factors in Determining Pet Custody

  1. Who Spent More Time with the Pet. When one spouse spends more time with the pet than the other, it is taken under heavy consideration by the court. Typically, whoever spends more time with the animal will be granted custody. This is to consider the pet’s well-being during the transition of divorce and lessen their stress levels during the big change.
  2. Primary Custody of Children. If the divorcing couple also has children, the primary custody of those children is also weighed into who will have custody of the pet. This is because the companion of an animal will have a positive effect on the children as they also cope with the divorce. Even further, separating a child both from a parent and their pet at one time can be overwhelming and disorienting. This means keeping the kids with the pet is often in the best interest of the children.
  3. Basic Needs of the Pet. When one spouse meets the basic needs of the pet, such as feeding and vet appointments, it is likely they will retain custody. Other factors, such as walking and grooming a dog, is also considered. This is to help the animal retain as much of their learned environment and lifestyle as possible.

If you have a pet and are going through a divorce, contact us today to ensure your rights are protected and your companion’s needs are considered in your proceedings.

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