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Who Gets to Keep a Pet After a Divorce?

A divorce means splitting up everything that you and your spouse own, and that includes any pets. If you want to make sure that you keep the dog or cat, our Morris County, NJ divorce lawyers can help you make the most effective possible argument for pet custody.

Is a Pet Considered Property in New Jersey?

In general, a pet is going to be considered property in New Jersey. That means that it can be subject to the property distribution process just like anything else you and your spouse currently own. However, most judges are going to realize that a pet is more than just property. While there are no specific rules or laws governing how pet custody is decided, both spouses usually have a chance to show that they would be able to provide the best home for a dog, cat, or ferret.

It is also important to note that, since a pet can be considered property, it can also be considered either separate or marital property. Separate property is something that you owned before you were married and marital property is something that you and your spouse jointly own. If you adopted a dog before you got married, it is likely to be considered separate property. Fighting over custody will probably be unnecessary. Just make sure that you have all of the relevant paperwork with dates and other important info.

When you adopt an animal together after getting married, that pet is going to be considered marital property. This is when things can get a bit complicated. You will need to make your case for custody.

What Can I Do to Show I Should Win Pet Custody?

To win custody, you want to show that you can provide the best home for the pet and that you have been its primary caretaker. You can do this in a few ways. We recommend that you:

Keep receipts and bills: If you have receipts for food or bills from the vet and you can show that you have been primarily responsible for paying them, that can go a long way in an argument for who should keep the pet.

Have people willing to testify on your behalf: You can also have friends or family members make statements that verify that you have been the primary caretaker for the animal. If you are the one who usually takes on tasks like walking the dog or cleaning up after the cat, that can strengthen your case for custody.

Show you can provide the best home: You have considered all of your pet’s needs when choosing a new place and you think that it is a better fit for the animal than your former spouse’s home.

Consult with a Divorce Attorney

We doubt that pet custody will be the only conflict you face when filing for divorce, so make sure that you have someone on your side who is ready to fight for you. The attorneys here at Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark are prepared to act as your advocate, so schedule a consultation and learn more about how we can be of assistance to you.