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Pets: Property or people in asset division?

By Sarah Jacobs, Esq.

Any pet owner in New Jersey will likely tell you that their beloved companion is an important member of the family. A pet may have birthday parties, play dates and even a wardrobe. When a pet gets sick, families often go to great lengths to make sure the animal gets the best care possible. In many ways, pets are considered to be so much more than merely an animal.

All this can change when pet owners get divorced. Suddenly, two people who share a pet may find themselves arguing over ownership as if it is a piece of furniture. This is because under New Jersey law, pets are considered personal property.

Discussions about how pets should be considered in a divorce have been increasingly common across the U.S. in recent years. While the law considers pets to be personal property, people are no longer willing to simply sell a pet to an ex or hand one over in exchange for something of equal value. Pets often have special subjective value to their owners beyond their price tag. This is why some judges are being a little more flexible when it comes to considering what is in the best interests of a pet before making a recommendation.

Because of this, the number of pet custody cases has risen dramatically, according to some sources. Many of the issues that people are addressing in these custody cases are similar to those that parents face when it comes to child custody. They want to maintain a stable and safe environment for a pet; they want to protect a pet from a dangerous party; they want to maintain positive relationships between pets and owners; and they want to make sure that the pet is taken care of. However, in New Jersey, pets are still considered to be only personal property so in certain circumstances, creative arguments are necessary.

Pet ownership may not come up in every divorce, but it can be important to remember that this issue highlights the discrepancy that can be present between what people think is right and what the law states. That is why it is crucial for people going through a divorce or struggling with another family law issue to have legal representation. An attorney can help people understand their rights and options when it comes to protecting what is important.

Contact Our Morristown Attorneys Today

At Jacobs Berger, our attorneys are experienced in protecting our clients across Madison, Randolph, Tewksbury, Morristown, and the greater Morris County area in all family law-related issues.

To schedule a strategic planning session with one of our experienced team members regarding your particular case, please contact us online or through our Morristown, NJ office at (973) 354-4506.