By Snyder & Sarno on November 25, 2014
Many individuals consider their pet to be part of their family. Thus, when a couple divorces, which party will receive the family pet often becomes a source of contention. In New Jersey, pets are considered property. A court will award ownership of a family pet to one party when equitably dividing the couple’s property as we have previously blogged about here. The court will not award “custody” of the pet to one of the parties.
In Houseman v. Dare, however, the New Jersey Appellate Division found that pets hold a special “sentimental value” to their owners, justifying unique treatment in the property division consideration. Later cases, Mitchell v. Mitchell, for example, found that in some cases a hearing will be required to determine which party has the greater attachment to the pet. In addition, a party may be able to obtain relief from an ex-spouse who primarily has the family pet if there is some neglect or abuse of the animal.
More modernly, HuffingtonPost.com recently posted a blog about creative ways that couples share pets after their divorce. For example, couples may create a “pet parenting schedule” that divides the time each party will have with the pet or delineates the way costs associated with the pet will be split by the parties. These arrangements are similar to those governing child custody, and more importantly, demonstrate how important a family pet can be.
If you are going through a divorce and are struggling to come to an agreement with your spouse, including an agreement involving the family pet, the experienced attorneys at Snyder & Sarno, LLC can help. Call us today at (973) 274-5200 for help with all your matrimonial law questions.
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