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Pet Custody Laws in NJ

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Dec 11, 2022

Pet Custody Laws in NJ: Who Gets the Dog in the Divorce?

Pet Custody Laws in NJ: Who Gets the Dog in the Divorce?

A study shows that more than 30% of couples involve their pets at their weddings.

There’s no doubt that pets are a huge part of people’s lives. Animals quickly become part of our families, making divorces even more challenging. It’s normal to be concerned about your pets when you’re ending your relationship; we are here to help.

If you’re splitting from your partner and you’re wondering, “can my ex take my dog in a divorce” or “who owns the dog after the divorce” keep reading. Below you will learn everything you need to know about pets in a divorce.

Form of Property

In New Jersey, there are no “pet custody” laws. Pets are considered property that must be divided between spouses.

Well, unlike other possessions, animals can be handled the same way. Most judges understand that there are emotional ties to a pet that don’t have a price tag.

There was a case in 2009 that changed the game. Since animals are considered property in New Jersey, a judge can’t grant custody; instead, it’s called “alternating procession of property.” You and your ex-spouse can split the time with the animal if the judge allows it.

Are Children Involved?

A judge will also consider the child’s attachment to the animal if you have children. In many cases, the animal will go back and forth with the child. This makes the transition easier for the child and answers the question, “who gets the dog in the divorce.”

Fighting for “Pet Custody”

If you want to be the sole owner of the pet after the divorce, there are several things you need to do. The case would be more straightforward if you owned the animal before marriage.

You’ll typically get full ownership of pets in a divorce if you owned them previously. However, things get a little more complicated if you purchased or adopted your four-legged friend after you got hitched.

You’ll need to prove to the judge that you spent the most money and time caring for the animal. This may include credit card bills that show you bought the pet’s supplies and paid for medical procedures or medications.

You should try to document how much time you have spent with the pet. Any pictures or videos that you have of you taking them on walks or going to the park will be useful too.

A judge will typically grant you full ownership if you can prove that your pet favors you. This is where those photos become helpful, and you can even have eyewitnesses testify that your pet is more attached to you.

Caring for Pets in a Divorce

A divorce between a couple without pets is hard; however, the situation becomes even more difficult when pets are involved. Deciding who gets ownership of the pet is sometimes more complex than deciding on child custody. If you can’t live without your furry friend, you’ll need someone who is an expert in divorce laws to help you.

We know how important pets can be, and we don’t want to see you lose your pets in a divorce. Contact Dalena & Bosch today so you have a team of professionals backing you when you go to court.

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Michael Mastrogiacomo - March 2020
If you’ve been searching for an honest and empathetic attorney...someone you can trust while you navigate the difficult and emotional world of family law, then do yourself a favor and contact Beth Dalena & Jessica Bosch. You’ll be so glad you did.
Par 5 Consulting - March 2020
When you are in the painful and often frightening process of divorce, the women of this law firm bring you confidence and security with their knowledge and professionalism. They exhibit that rare combination of the willingness to hold your hand like a compassionate friend and defend you like a piranha in the courtroom when necessary. They exhibit dedication, and the grace and wisdom of their long term experience. They look…
Cindy Morhouse - February 2020
These ladies have helped me several times in my experience with them. Jessica was my divorce attorney and I can say without hesitation, she was professionally and personally a gift to me. She handled my case (adversarial at best) with grace and knowledge. A fighter when necessary. She handled me in my personal state as a friend. Compassionate and kind. Beth assisted me with rewriting my deed after my divorce…
Scarlett O - January 2020
I chose Jessica A. Bosch to represent me because she was compassionate and knowledgeable. My divorce was a long and difficult journey. During this time, I lost sight of what was really important. Jessica kept me grounded and focused on what would be best for me after the divorce. I am grateful for her help in protecting two very important financial things that I might have given up. I didn't…
Cynthia R - December 2019