Are you considering filing for divorce in Monmouth County, NJ? Are you worried about what will happen to your family pet? Even in the most amicable of divorces, it’s important to have a pet custody plan in place to help your family deal with this transition. An experienced Monmouth County pet custody lawyer can help you reach a favorable outcome.
Our team at The Law Office of Jennifer J. McCaskill, LLC understands that your pet is a critical part of your family. Maintaining your relationship with your pet We have over 20 years of experience handling sensitive family law matters like yours.
How Can The Law Office of Jennifer J. McCaskill, LLC Help Resolve My Pet Custody Matter in Monmouth County, NJ?
The emotional ties between a pet and their pet-parent are often significant. For many pet owners, the idea of losing their pet in a divorce is unthinkable. So, it’s not a shock that pet custody disputes are becoming more common every day.
The fact is, in pet custody matters, New Jersey courts aren’t held to the same standards that apply to human children. That makes having an experienced Monmouth County family lawyer even more critical.
At The Law Office of Jennifer J. McCaskill, LLC, our creative and compassionate attorneys have the skills to help. When you hire us, our team will:
- Gather evidence to establish your relationship with your animal
- Facilitate mediation to attempt a resolution without trial
- Develop a custom-tailored strategy to help you get the results you deserve
- Represent you in court and ensure the judge takes your situation seriously
- Provide personalized attention and support at every stage
Pet owners often fear that the courts won’t take them seriously. Our Monmouth County family law attorneys will make your case a top priority. We’re here to help in any way we can, so give us a call today.
An Overview of the Laws Governing Pets and Divorce in New Jersey
Nearly 50% of all New Jersey households have at least one pet. It’s not entirely surprising that pet custody disputes aren’t all that rare. That said, they’re also not as common as child custody disputes.
Pet custody matters are handled differently than child custody matters. In fact, “pet custody” really means “pet ownership”. Still, we know that your pet is one of the family–and providing for their care after a divorce is extremely important.
New Jersey doesn’t actually have any specific laws that address pet custody issues in a divorce.
The laws in other states can, however, provide some insight into what determines pet custody in New Jersey.
Laws on Pet Ownership in Alaska and Illinois
Alaska was the first state in the U.S. to pass a law governing pet custody disputes. When Alaska family courts resolve pet custody disputes, they are specifically required to consider “the well-being of the animal” in making their decisions.
In Alaska, judges are also specifically permitted to allow joint custody arrangements.
Of course, pets in Alaska are still technically classified as personal property. Still, courts are now legally mandated to consider the best interests of the animal when awarding ownership in a divorce.
Parties can petition Illinois courts to order joint pet custody or sole pet custody in situations involving joint ownership of an animal. Similarly, Illinois’ pet custody law requires courts to consider the well-being of “companion animals” when making ownership decisions in light of a divorce or separation.
How Will the Family Courts Resolve My Pet Custody Case?
In New Jersey, pets are classified as property. Therefore, when a couple divorces, pets are treated as assets. They’re subject to the same equitable division rules that govern the division of the couple’s marital property.
If one spouse owned the pet prior to the marriage, it’s likely that the court will award custody of the pet to that spouse. If the pet was acquired during the marriage, on the other hand, courts have more discretion. They’ll award pet custody based on what is fair and reasonable under the circumstances.
Child custody disputes, on the other hand, are resolved based on what is in the best interests of the child.
California is one state that has recognized the unique nature of pets in property division disputes. It specifically outlines a number of factors that courts may consider–factors that New Jersey courts also have the discretion to consider when determining pet ownership issues.
There are many different factors that a New Jersey judge may consider when determining ownership of your pet, including:
- Who purchased the pet?
- Who was the pet’s primary caregiver? (i.e. Who walks the dog? Who takes the dog to veterinarian appointments?)
- Which party spends the most time with the animal?
- Do you have a child with emotional ties to the animal?
- What types of emotional bonds has each spouse developed with the pet?
- Is there any evidence that the pet favors one spouse over the other?
- Is there any history of animal abuse on the part of one spouse?
- Is there a difference in the amount of time one spouse can dedicate to the pet?
- Is one spouse more able to bear financial responsibility for the pet after divorce?
Our New Jersey divorce attorneys can help you document your relationship and ties with your pet. Many different types of evidence can be relevant when presenting your case before the court. Credit card receipts showing the purchase of pet supplies, photos of you walking a dog or playing with your animal, and testimony from friends and neighbors can all be relevant.
Does the Court Have To Determine Who Gets Custody of Our Pet After a Divorce in New Jersey?
No. Like any other important issue that must be resolved in your divorce proceedings, it’s entirely possible that you and your spouse can come to an agreement without involving the courts.
The terms used in child custody disputes can be useful in pet custody matters. It’s possible that two spouses can agree to a joint pet ownership schedule, where each party spends equal time with the pet even after divorce. These types of arrangements can be particularly useful in cases involving children, where the parents share equal parenting responsibilities.
It’s also possible that one spouse could fight for sole custody of the animal. The non-custodial “pet parent” could also be granted visitation rights.
In situations where pet custody issues are disputed, mediation and alternative dispute resolution (ADR) techniques can be extremely helpful. Your lawyer can facilitate these methods of resolving disputes.
At The Law Office of Jennifer J. McCaskill, LLC, our lawyers are skilled mediators. We have the experience and tools to help you and your co-pet-parent resolve even the most complicated custody dispute. Contact us today to schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can help.
How Can I Protect My Pet Ownership Rights in Case of Divorce?
Today, many couples choose to include pet ownership issues in their pre-nuptial or post-nuptial agreements. These agreements are sometimes called “pup-nups” and outline who will have custody of the animal and how ownership responsibilities will be allocated (or divided) in the event of separation or divorce.
Our divorce lawyers in Monmouth County can help you draft a pet custody agreement that outlines each spouse’s rights and responsibilities with respect to pet ownership in the event of a divorce. We can also help you draft a pet parenting plan that works for everyone.
Pet parenting plans can address many different issues, including:
- How pet emergencies will be handled
- Who will pay for the pet’s medical expenses
- How the pet’s routine will be maintained, addressing feeding and walking schedules
- The pet’s living arrangements and visitation schedule
- Whether it’s advisable to create a jointly-owned pet expense savings account
If an agreement is not possible, you can count on us to do everything possible to convince the judge that you deserve custody of your beloved pet.
For many families, we know that a relationship with a pet can be just as important as relationships with children–especially for families with no human children. You can trust that we will take your case seriously and give it the full attention your family deserves.
We Represent Clients in Pet Custody Matters Across New Jersey
Our team at The Law Office of Jennifer J. McCaskill, LLC handles pet custody matters across New Jersey, representing clients in:
- Monmouth County
- Middlesex County
- Fair Haven
- Little Silver
- Ocean County
- Red Bank
- Somerset County
When it comes to resolving complicated family matters, our Monmouth County pet custody attorneys have the experience you want in your corner. Contact us today to learn more about the benefits of securing legal representation.
Contact an Experienced Monmouth County Pet Custody Lawyer for a Free Consultation Today
The Law Office of Jennifer J. McCaskill, LLC is an award-winning family law firm with experience handling all types of divorce-related matters. If you’re dealing with a dispute over who will get the family pet, contact us for a consultation with a Monmouth County pet custody lawyer today.