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McCurrie McCurrie
& McCurrie, L.L.C.

680 Kearny Avenue
Kearny, NJ 07032-3010
Phone: (201) 467-4180
Fax: (201) 997-9567
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Who gets the pet if you divorce?

Children are often the focus of the most contentious portions of a divorce for couples in Jersey City, New Jersey. Some couples do not have children but do have a cat or a dog-sometimes several. Many people with pets become extremely attached to them and treat them as their children, even though they are animals. Despite any emotional attachment, divorcing couples ready to fight for pets should understand how family law views them.

In most cases, judges will treat pets as property. This means that they will be divided like a home, a car and any investment accounts you might have. Leaving this decision up to a judge often finds former spouses disappointed so it may be smart to hash out an agreement regarding the pet on your own, instead of through litigation.

Judges will consider several things when choosing which person the pet should go with. First and foremost, there is the ownership of the animal. If a person owned the animal before the marriage, they will likely be the one that continues to own the pet in the future. But if that person is never home due to a busy work life or does not perform any care for the animal, she or he may lose ownership.

The presence of children also makes a difference: If children are involved, the pet will likely go to the person who receives primary custody to avoid any feelings of loss in addition to those that have been created through the divorce. Finally, a prenuptial agreement targeting the pet during divorce will likely be upheld by a judge.

When these issues are not so cut and dry, some judges will go to drastic measures. In at least one case, a judge placed a cat in the middle of the room and said that the person it went to would receive ownership. Instead of allowing this to happen, the divorcing spouses made their own plan that included custody, visitation rights and support for veterinary bills and other pet expenses.

Source: Huffington Post, "Why Pets Matter In A Divorce," Silvana D. Raso, Nov. 17, 2012

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