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Pets viewed as property during divorce, but hard to part with

Whenever there is a dissolution of a marriage, there are many decisions to be made by the two parties. Some of those decisions can be easy. However, when pets are involved, it can be difficult to decide who will be the primary caretaker and to work out the details of sharing a pet. During a Pennsylvania divorce, a pet is still viewed as property by the courts despite the importance of a pet to the owners.

Recent statistics document the rising role of pets in a household. It is currently estimated that 63 percent of households have a pet. There has also been a significant increase in the amount of money people spend on their pets, further demonstrating the significant role they can play in a family. In fact, for families with no children, the pet can be seen as a child or valued companion and not just property.

Judges now find themselves having to determine who will have the dog full time or what kind of agreement the parties may be able to work out as far as visitation is concerned. While courts may be overwhelmed with other issues during a divorce, couples may find a situation with a pet may be about deeper issues, such as power or control over the other person. Financial aspects of pet custody and ownership may also need to be addressed when deciding where the pet may live.

While the Pennsylvania courts do not typically recognize a pet as anything more than property during a divorce (at least in a legal sense), the emotional attachment and best interests of any kids attached to pets may make it a difficult decision for both parties. As with any marital property, communication may be the key to resolving who will have the pet or what kind of agreement may work best. Factoring in details regarding vet bills and food costs can help both parties feel more prepared to work out a decision without the need for a judge's intervention.

Source: The Huffington Post, Who Gets The Pets In A Divorce? What You Need To Consider When Fighting Over Fido, Maria Moya, Jan. 19, 2014

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