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How do divorce courts deal with pet custody?

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2021 | family law |

One challenging hurdle in New Jersey divorce negotiations can be the issue of pet custody. According to the letter of the law, our furry family members are considered property. Fortunately, however, courts are starting to take a more humane approach to these decisions.

Pet divorces in the past

In the not too distant past, divorce courts simply awarded custody to the person who paid more for the pet’s food and medical bills. That often meant that the breadwinners were given sole discretion to decide the fate of the family dog or cat.

Common solutions to pet divorces today

These days, the relationship between people and pets has evolved, and most judges now understand the deep and meaningful connections that many humans share with their four-pawed pals. So instead of coldly calculating the decision on finances alone, other pet divorce solutions are now standard.

Prenuptial and postnuptial agreements

No longer just for the super-wealthy, prenuptial and postnuptial agreements are a lot more common today. In fact, some couples have them written up just to address pet custody. Unless the contract is invalid for some other reason, judges typically honor the terms already in place.

Co-parenting pets

Increasingly, families are creating joint custody schedules for their pets. Sometimes, the pets simply move back and forth with the kids. When children aren’t in the picture, separating couples may agree to a weekly or monthly hand-off deal.

Emotional connection

If one party can prove they have a stronger relationship with the animal — and that the pet may face harm by living with their ex — they may win custody. The key in these cases is amassing proof.

Negotiating pet custody arrangements can be difficult. But if everyone approaches the situation with grace, patience and compassion, workable pet custody agreements are possible.