Custody of a Pet during Divorce

For many individuals and families, their pet is more than just a dog or a cat or anything else, they are a member of their family. And while deciding the key divorce issues of child custody, child support, alimony, and marital asset division can be difficult, oftentimes deciding which party will have custody of a family pet can be just as difficult.

In fact, a 2014 survey performed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers found that custody disputes over pets and their resulting court hearings had already increased 22%!

If you are a pet owner going through a divorce, here is some important information for you regarding how custody of pets is decided in New Jersey, and what legal options you have at your disposal for securing “pet custody”.

Passaic County Divorce Courts and Pet Custody

The most important thing to understand when it comes to custody of pets during divorce is that even though your pet may be a member of your family, the law views all pets as property, rather than “people”. This means that if it is up to the courts to decide which party retains custody of a pet during your divorce, the court will only consider factors like which party originally bought the pet, and/or which party traditionally paid for its veterinarian bills and other expenses.

In the eyes of the law, it doesn’t matter which individual has a better relationship with their pet, who walked the dog or cleaned the litter box, or even which party the pet seems to prefer.

However, while a court will be fairly inflexible if they are asked to rule on a pet custody dispute, there are other options available to you if you are concerned with custody of your pet following your Passaic County divorce.

Woodland Park, NJ Divorce Lawyers Secure Pet Custody

One very viable option, as funny as it may sound, is to create a “pet prenuptial”, or add custody of your pet to your prenuptial agreement. While no couple wants to consider the possibility of a divorce, the fact of the matter is that more than 50% of all New Jersey marriages end in divorce, and prenuptial agreements can save an immense deal of time, money, and stress in the event that you do divorce, including when it comes to determining pet custody.

If you do not have a prenuptial agreement, or your prenuptial agreement does not include terms regarding custody of your pet, another potential option for you is to discuss sharing custody of your pet with your partner after your divorce. While not every pet will be able to handle such an arrangement, many others can, and shared pet custody can allow both parties to each spend time with their pet after their divorce.

If shared pet custody does not seem to be a viable option in your situation, it is also possible for your attorney to negotiate for pet custody in exchange for concessions in other divorce settlement areas. How much you are willing to concede in exchange for custody of your pet is entirely up to you and the negotiation skills of your Woodland Park divorce lawyer.

Contact Our Passaic County Pet Custody and Divorce Attorneys Today

At The Law Office of The Montanari Law Group, our attorneys have extensive experience helping clients to fairly and effectively resolve their divorce and its key components of child custody, child support, alimony, marital asset division, and even pet custody in towns across Passaic County, including Woodland Park, Clifton, Wayne, and West Milford.

Our firm strongly believes that by listening closely to each of our client’s unique needs and concerns in any legal matter, and working to keep them highly informed and involved throughout, we can better work to secure the type of resolutions that best meets those same needs and concerns while also protecting our client’s legal, financial, and parental futures.

To speak with our attorney team today in a free and confidential consultation regarding a prenuptial agreement, your divorce, or a pet custody issue, please contact us online, or through our Little Falls, NJ office at (973) 233-4396.


To speak with one of our highly knowledgeable attorneys, contact us today at (973)-233-4396 or toll-free at (888)-877-7985. You can also complete the form below to begin your conversation. We are a personalized, boutique-style law firm that offers free initial consultations and flexible appointment options.