Once a couple decides to pursue the dissolution of a marriage, there are many decisions to make as one household becomes two. The process of dividing property and drafting a custody agreement can be daunting. For Pennsylvania couples who share beloved pets, the process of deciding who will get the pets or how to handle the fate of pets during divorce can be just as daunting as dealing with issues traditionally related to children.
While pets may be cared for and loved as much a child, they are still regarded as property in the family court system. Despite this legal fact, there are many cases in which an agreement is drawn up that outlines who gets the pets and whether ex-spouses will share custody of the pets. It is not uncommon for a couple to share a pet or to care for it while the other party is gone; however, experts warn to not trade off too frequently as this can create stress for an animal.
Aside from who has the pet on what given day or weekend, there are other issues that couples on the verge of splitting may want to consider. One issue is cost. Aside from the basic costs of food and care, there are veterinarian bills to consider. Other financial matters related to animal care may also arise.
While it may be unusual for a Pennsylvania couple to make a pet the subject of a traditional custody battle in family court during a divorce, the details of an animal agreement can be just as important and deserve special care and treatment. These agreements are essentially worked out between the spouses; however, legal advice can help ensure the agreement encompasses all issues and contingencies. When emotions run high, a clear-headed professional can address issues as they arise.
Source: inforum.com, “What happens to pets in a divorce?”, Tracy Frank, March 10, 2015