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What happens to pets in a New Jersey divorce?

Did you know that, in the eyes of the law, your pets are considered property? This means that if you are getting divorced, your beloved animal companion could be part of a property division settlement rather than a custody agreement.

This can be quite upsetting for animal owners who see their pet more as a member of the family than a piece of property to value and divide. However, you can work with an attorney to create a pet custody plan outside of court. While this can be a contentious issue, as discussed in this article, there are some important things to consider when creating a pet custody plan to help you make these difficult decisions.

  1. Do you have children? If so, it may be best for the pet to remain with the kids if there is an attachment there. This is often how the courts will rule, should the issue go to court.
  2. What does your pet need? If you have a large dog that needs a lot of space to run around, it would probably be best for the dog to be with the person who has the biggest yard or home. If you have a pet that requires substantial attention, it would likely be better off with the person who has more time to devote to its care.
  3. What can you afford? Your pet needs things like food, medicine, shelter and recreation, which can all cost money. If one person is unable or unwilling to provide these things, it may be best to place the pet with the other person.
  4. Who was the primary caregiver? Even though you both owned a pet, one person often has a stronger connection to the animal, especially if he or she got the pet before marriage.

Based on how you answer these questions, you might find that the pet should stay with one pet parent, or you might decide to try to share custody. You would also be wise to think about whether one or both of you will contribute financially to your pet's care.

Whatever you decide, it is important that you work with your attorney to discuss your options and document the plan in your divorce agreement. Getting divorced is tough; taking steps to protect your pet can give you some comfort in knowing that his or her needs will continue to be met.

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