Many people do not realize how many different elements there are in a divorce. Perhaps the most complicated part is deciding who gets custody of your children. But, what if you have pets? A large number of families in New Jersey have dogs, cats or other animals that they consider a part of their family.
However, according to New Jersey law, your pets are not considered family members the same way your children are. So what happens to them during a divorce? How can families decide who gets to keep the pets?
Are pets property?
Though you might think of your dog as your child, the law does not see them the same way. There are some states that now consider pets similar to children in terms of welfare and custody, but unfortunately New Jersey does not have similar policies. According to the law, dogs, cats and other pets are considered personal property.
This means your pets are considered assets or property, the same as real estate or financials and will be divided as such during your divorce. If you cannot decide who will take full ownership of your pet with your spouse, the courts will decide for you, just like any other type of asset dispute.
However, there are still other options. If you see fit, you may be able to work out an arrangement with your spouse and your attorney for visitation or custody, just like with human children. Some families have created pet ownership plans, similar to parenting plans, that have visitation schedules and other parent-like decision making plans for their pets.
Like any other similar divorce situation, it is best to consult your attorney about this type of issue. If you think you and your pet could benefit from an alternative arrangement, you can discuss it with your lawyer and try to work out a plan. Pets are becoming more and more of an integral part of our lives and families, and there is no reason they should not be treated like it, even during a divorce.