Pets in an East Brunswick Divorce

Pets are considered part of the family. When the parties are dividing the family, what is going to happen to the pet can become very contentious because both parties like the animal and want the pet to be part of their household. Many times one party may not have such a great relationship with the pet, but just wants to be spiteful.

What can make divorce even more difficult is the fact that pets are classified as property in East Brunswick. That means that pets in an East Brunswick divorce are distributed just as any other piece of property would be. Pets are emotional, not like a couch that a person can just toss aside, which is why a qualified divorce attorney could work to achieve an outcome that is best for you and your pet(s).

Equitable Distribution Laws and Custody

New Jersey is an equitable distribution state. When it comes to pets and equitable distribution, it is actually quite interesting how they are handled in divorce cases in New Jersey. There are many regulations and books on how the family pets are going to be treated. Although pets are considered a property, they are considered a special kind of property. The court has found that pets are alive and emotional animals, and are a special kind of property and a different kind of value. Pets in an East Brunswick divorce are kind of considered a liability and an asset. It is a special kind of property that would be listed as an asset or a liability.

Considerations When Determining Custody

There are a number of factors that the court does consider when deciding what to do with pets in an East Brunswick divorce, such as:

  • Is one person doing this out of spite to the other person and not  actually a pet person
  • Did one person spend more time with the pet throughout the marriage
  • Does one person have custody of the children and are the children attached to the animal
  • Whether or not the pet's basic needs are going to be handled after the divorce

The court will look at the history of the animal in the household and determine who took the animal to the vet, who fed the animal, who walked the animal, et cetera.

Assessing the Value of a Companion Animal

When talking about a companion animal, assuming it is a pet and not a service animal, the discussion is not based on the value of the pet or how much it cost, but their emotional value to the people involved.

If an animal is officially a companion animal but fills a significant emotional support role to one of the parties, it could definitely influence the court’s decision.

Pet Custody and Child Custody

Divorce courts do not equate pet custody and child custody because pets are considered a special kind of property and children are human beings. Human beings have more rights than a pet. If there is a contentious issue with pets, having a similar parenting time plan that one would have with a child would be the relationship.

There have been situations where divorced couples had a parenting time schedule set up similar to that that one would have with children, and the courts allowed it to be entered into the divorce. For example, the parties had the dog for a month on and then a month off; two weeks on and two weeks off. It is considered special property in the State of New Jersey, and it can be a difficult conversation for one party to have. If an individual wants to know more about potential custody arrangements for pets in an East Brunswick divorce, they should consult a knowledgeable divorce attorney who can answer their questions.