Pet Custody and Divorce

Bergen County NJ Divorce and Pet Custody AttorneysFor many families, their dog is more than just a pet, they are a member of the family unit. As difficult as deciding divorce issues like child custody, child support, alimony, and asset division can often be, deciding what happens to the family pet can often be just as difficult.

A 2014 survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers further supports this fact, as the survey found that “pet custody” hearings had increased by 22%! If you are going through a divorce, and are the owner of any kind of pet, here is some important information for you regarding how the custody of pets can and will be handled during your divorce.

Pet Ownership and Divorce Lawyers Ridgewood, NJ

While you, as a pet owner, may see your dog, cat, or any other kind of pet as a member of your family, it is important to understand that the law does not share this same viewpoint. In fact, the law views pets as property, meaning the law won’t take into consideration things like who primarily takes care of your pet, who has a better relationship with them, or which side of the bed your dog sleeps on. Instead, it will primarily consider who originally purchased your pet, or which party has paid for the majority of the veterinary bills when determining “pet custody” during your Bergen County divorce.

However, while the law may be fairly inflexible when awarding pet custody during divorce, this doesn’t mean you are without options if you are interested in retaining custody of your pet after your divorce, but were not the original “purchaser” of your pet.

How Can I Secure Custody of My Pet during a Bergen County Divorce?

When it comes to pet custody during divorce, there are a variety of potential solutions which you and your Bergen County divorce attorney can discuss. Some couples have found success employing a “shared pet custody” plan, meaning the divorced parties take turns having their pet in their home. While some pets have personalities which aren’t very well suited to this kind of arrangement, many others have much more adaptable personalities. If you think your pet can handle the added strain of switching between homes, speak with your attorney regarding how to go about securing this type pet of custody arrangement.

On the other hand, some couples are now creating “pet prenuptials”, essentially prenuptial agreements which address the issue of pet custody in the event of a divorce. While such an agreement may seem excessive to non pet-owners, any person with a close relationship to their pet would certainly understand the desire to ensure that your relationship with your pet is well-protected and defined.

Finally, while no person should use their pet as a bargaining chip during their divorce as this can easily backfire, if you are genuinely concerned about retaining custody of your dog, cat, or other pet after your divorce, you can certainly negotiate for such an arrangement, just remember that you will most likely need to offer something of equitable value if you are not the “on paper” owner of the pet in question.

Contact Our Bergen County Divorce and Pet Custody Attorneys Today

At Townsend, Tomaio & Newmark, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients to resolve their divorce in a manner which best meets their individual needs while still remaining fair in the eyes of the law in towns across Bergen County, including Ridgewood, Paramus, Teaneck, Hackensack, and Fort Lee.

We understand just how important your continued relationship with your pet is to you, and we are willing to find creative and effective solutions to your pet custody issue, and any other divorce issue that may arise.

To speak with our family law team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding your divorce, any kind of marital agreement, or your unique needs and concerns when it comes to pet custody, please contact us online, or through our Hackensack, NJ office at (201) 397-1750.

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