For most people, the bond they have with their pets is as strong as, if not stronger than the ones they have with other humans. Pets, after all, offer unconditional love regardless of our flaws, financial status of lack of social standing. With their unfailing sense of loyalty and devotion, it's no wonder that divorcing couples fight as heatedly over custody of their pets as they do over their children. Pets, however, are not in the same category as humans in the eyes of the law. While this may change in the future, current New Jersey divorce statutes do not address the issue of "custody" when it comes to pets.
In fact, pets are currently viewed as "property" in all 50 states in the US, which means that judges can only award them as part of a property settlement. Judges, of course, do not view pets in the same way that they view properties such as cars, furniture and investment accounts. Many judges are pet owners themselves, and recognize the intense emotional bond that exists between pets and their owners. They also recognize that unlike most properties, pets are not replaceable due to their unique personalities and
characteristics. Thus, there are special factors that are considered when a judge decides which spouse should be awarded the pet.
First and foremost, the judge considers which spouse spends more time with the pet, since it can be assumed that the pet is more at ease with that owner. In most cases, the spouse with whom the pet spends the most time is also the one who cares for the pet's basic needs, which is another important consideration. These needs include feeding, walking, grooming and taking the pet to the veterinarian. You can see right here how judges clearly recognize the difference between pets and other properties. With most properties, judges often consider who paid more into the purchase and upkeep, but this standard is not fair when deciding on the fate of a sentient being. In further consideration of the dog's well-being, judges tend to favor the spouse who will have primary custody of the children. This can be good for the children as well; animals have been known to help children heal from all types of physical and emotional trauma.
It's interesting to note that these factors are not so different from the ones that judges examine for custody disputes. What matters here is your pet's best interests, which will hopefully help you and your spouse reach an agreement without going to court. No matter how you resolve your pet custody dispute, you should always speak to a divorce attorney about your rights and options. Pet custody is one of the most sensitive and complicated issues in the field of divorce law, so it's essential that you retain quality legal representation right from the beginning. The experienced divorce trial attorneys of Villani & DeLuca, P.C. will be happy to discuss your case during a free initial consultation.
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