The divorce process poses difficult challenges for the whole family. Couples face one of the most emotional and complex issues during their divorce when deciding who gets custody of the pets.
You likely both have close attachments to your pets, making this decision particularly challenging.
New Jersey Law Classifies Pets As Property
The state categorizes pets as property for contested divorce purposes in New Jersey. This means that just like other assets, the distribution of pets follows standard equitable property division rules. However, unlike other assets, pets have an emotional attachment, and often, relatives treat them as beloved family members.
Four Factors That The Court Considers
When determining the custody of your pets during divorce, the court will consider factors such as who is the pet’s primary caregiver, who holds the financial responsibilities of the pet, the pet’s preference and which spouse has a living situation most suitable for the pet. For example, if you have a dog, this might include looking at whose house has a backyard or the proximity of parks and trails.
The court assesses the primary caregiver of your pets by looking at who takes them to the vet, who spends the most time with them and who feeds and grooms them. When analyzing finances, the court may consider who pays for pet expenses such as food, vet bills and grooming. In some cases, the court may consider each pet’s preference, particularly if the pets are older or have a strong attachment to one spouse.
By considering these factors and working together, divorcing couples can make the best decision for themselves and their furry family members.