Pets in New Jersey Asset Division Cases

In divorce proceedings, a couple who owns a pet together will usually have to decide who keeps the animal. Rather than attempting to obtain custody of a pet, the two parties in a divorce will usually include their shared animal as one of their assets in the property division process. Since emotional attachment is involved, asset division cases concerning pets can quickly become highly contentious. It could be beneficial for both parties to have legal professionals at their sides to handle any conflict that may arise. An experienced lawyer could help you and your ex-spouse come to an agreement about your pet in your New Jersey asset division case.

Are Pets Considered Assets or Liabilities in the Divorce Process?

Pets can be classified as either an asset or a liability, depending on the specific situation. Though these animals are often viewed as part of a family, they are still considered property under New Jersey law, which makes them an asset that must be distributed during the divorce process.

Pets also often come with liabilities, which can impact how an animal’s expenses are split between the parties. For example, a sick dog may require a lot of medical care, medical treatment, and food that could be an expensive undertaking for one spouse to handle. Any ongoing expenses concerning the animal will need to be addressed during this process, and it often becomes clear which spouse is better equipped to manage the liabilities that come with an old or sick pet. An experienced attorney in the area could help a couple determine which spouse would make the most capable owner when evaluating how their pet fits into their asset division case.

Factors in Pet Custody During Property Distribution

Since pets are seen as property in these circumstances, custody decisions about an animal are not going to be given the same weight as child custody orders. The best interest of the pet is not usually considered, unless there is evidence of animal abuse or neglect. In property distribution cases involving a pet, a court will first consider if the pet was purchased prior to the marriage and if it could be considered premarital property.

The court will also examine factors such as which spouse consistently purchased the food for the pet or who usually paid the veterinarian bills. Additionally, if there are children involved in the divorce case, the court will also take the children’s attachment to the pet into account. For example, if the children are going to be spending most of their time at the custodial parent’s house, the pet may go to the custodial parent.

It is often more productive for the two parties to attempt to resolve pet custody issues outside of court without the judge having to make a decision. This way, both spouses can come up with the best plan to continue the bond that they have with the animal. A skilled asset division lawyer in the area could help both parties reach a satisfactory agreement about the custody of their pet.

An Attorney Could Help You Decide the Custody of Your Pet During Your Asset Division Case

Deciding which spouse will take ownership of a shared pet is just one factor among many that go into a property division case, but it is important for both parties to consider. Ideally, both parties would come to an agreement after a discussion about their own capabilities and wishes, but this subject can often lead to heated arguments in an already contentious time.

If you and soon-to-be former partner are struggling to decide what to do with your pet in your New Jersey asset division case, you should reach out to a qualified attorney who could handle your case and help you achieve the outcome you want. Call today to schedule an initial consultation.

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