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Pet distribution in Pennsylvania divorces

On Behalf of | Dec 27, 2023 | Divorce |

Many individuals consider pets akin to children, viewing them as valued members of the family. The prospect of losing one in a divorce can be a painful one.

While owners may see their beloved companions as children, Pennsylvania courts do not.

Pets are property

State law classifies pets as property for the purpose of divorce. If one of the spouses owned the pet in question before the marriage, he or she is separate property and remains with the original owner. However, if the two obtained the pet during the union, he or she is marriage property and subject to division.

Courts encourage divorcing couples to reach a mutual agreement about pets, which may or may not include pet custody agreements. If this is not possible, they may consider factors such as the primary caretaker of the pet, who paid for the majority of pet-related expenses, who bought the pet and the living situation and ability to provide a stable environment of each spouse. Courts tend to want pets to be with the partners who are more likely to and have the financial and physical ability to care for them.

Minor children’s attachments matter

Courts focus on the best interests of any minor children involved in divorces. If children have attachments to pets to the point where separation would cause them mental or emotional distress, judges may place pets with parents with primary custody.

According to Zebra, approximately one in every 2.4 Americans owns a cat or dog. With the addition of households owning other kinds of pets, a large portion of the population has a pet of some kind. Pet distribution in a divorce follows the same process as property distribution, with the exception that many judges like to take into account the pets’ best interests. Divorcing spouses may be able to negotiate with each other to reach a peaceable agreement.