It is no secret that many individuals in Pennsylvania think of their pets as part of the family. Therefore, when a couple decides to separate, the decision of who the pets should stay with can become a point of contention. Some pet owners may believe that the situation should be approached in a manner similar to child custody, but in the eyes of the court, pet ownership is typically handled under property division.
Because a pet is considered property, there can be measures taken before a marriage to ensure that one party will maintain ownership of the pet in the event of a divorce. A prenuptial agreement can make arrangements for certain property before a wedding takes place, and pets can be worked into these agreements. If the issue becomes a point of concern after marriage, a postnuptial agreement could also keep the situation from becoming more complicated.
It is also important to remember that certain aspects can contribute to the decision of who should maintain ownership of the pet. If the pet belonged to one spouse before the couple was married, that same individual will likely keep ownership of the pet. The factors of who takes care of the pet most often and whose lifestyle after the divorce will allow for accommodating a pet could also play a role.
Though it may be unseemly to some pet owners to think of their pets as property, it is important to view such matters through the eyes of the court. Therefore, seeking information on property division and pets during the divorce process could potentially allow a concerned party to have a better handle on their situation. Property division in Pennsylvania can differ from other jurisdictions, and this is an area of the law that has continued to evolve as pets continue to take a special place in the lives of many families.
Source: Forbes, "How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?", Jeff Landers, April 17, 2014