In a Divorce, Who Keeps the Family Pet?
During a divorce, a single household must be divided into two. Time with the children and marital property must be shared now that the spouses are dissolving their marriage. One issue that may get especially heated involves the family pet—which spouse gets to keep it? In New Jersey, there are a few elements the family courts will examine in making such a determination.
Although many of us feel that our pets are part of the family, in all 50 states, pets are viewed as personal property. Therefore, principles of property division generally apply when family court judges decide who should keep the family pet.
First, the courts will determine who spent the most time with the pet. Dogs, cats, and other animals are often sensitive to significant changes in their environments—such as suddenly living with someone they have not spent much time with before. Therefore, judges will closely examine any evidence presented as to which party spent more time bonding with the pet. Affidavits, photographs, and witness testimony may all be used to support a party’s position.
Next, the courts will look at the relationship the children have with the family pet. A divorce is extremely stressful on children, and being separated from the family pet may only make things worse. Therefore, many judges will award the pet to the parent with primary custody. In all cases involving children, the best interests of the children take priority in how matters are resolved. The parties may submit a variety of evidence to show the children’s relationship with the family pet, such as photographs. In addition, a guardian ad litem may be appointed to assess the children’s needs in the divorce.
Finally, New Jersey family courts will examine which spouse took care of the pet during the marriage. Who took the pet to the vet? If the pet is a dog, who walked the dog? Who took the pet to the groomer? When the pet was sick, who stayed up at night to give the pet medication? Vet records, groomers’ records, and other documents may be presented to support these positions.
If keeping the family pet is important to you, you should consult with an experienced family court attorney to ensure you present the strongest arguments possible in your case. Without an attorney, you may miss important filing deadlines and fail to submit proper evidence. Attorneys are also experienced in arguing in court and ensuring that judges are informed of all relevant facts in the case. To ensure your legal rights are adequately protected, hiring an attorney as soon as possible is key.
Can’t decide who gets the pet, contact our New Jersey divorce lawyers today for guidance
At Lomurro Law, we understand how important your pet is to you. When it comes to divorce we help resolve all matters, including those involving pets. To schedule your free consultation with our experienced legal team, call 732-482-9285 or contact us online.