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What happens to pets in a Pennsylvania divorce?

Affluent couples face a number of challenges when it comes to divorce, particularly with regard to the property division process. Because there may be a lot of money and pricey assets on the line, this step can be highly contentious and complicated.

However, in some cases, the source of the most contention isn't a home, a piece of jewelry or profits from an investment; it is a pet.

Many pet owners argue that custody of a pet is not a property division issue, but rather one more closely related to child custody. After all, owners often see an animal companion as a member of the family, not a piece of property.

Unfortunately, state laws currently treat pets as personal property.

As such, it can be crucial to address pet custody outside of court. Otherwise, owners risk putting the decision in the hands of a judge who treats it more like a property division issue than one of custody.

When you are thinking about who will keep the pet after a divorce, you should consider the following questions.

  • Does one of you have a stronger bond with the animal?
  • Did one of you own the pet before you got married?
  • Who has the resources to take care of the pet? (Think about space, money and time to devote to the pet.)
  • If you have children, where will they spend most of their time? Should the pet stay with the children?
  • Is it an option to share custody or set up a visitation schedule?

Based on how you answer these questions, you may be able to come to an agreement on who will keep the pet. If you cannot, though, the matter will be handled by the courts.

Disputes over who keeps the pet in a divorce are becoming increasingly common in Pennsylvania, so you should not hesitate to discuss your options regarding pet custody with your attorney.

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