When a couple splits, the dissolution of the marriage also means a splitting of marital property. While many pet owners do not regard the pet as property, according to the law in Pennsylvania and other states, animals are dealt with in the same manner as other assets, and important decisions regarding the fate of those animals must be made during a divorce. Family courts all over the country are seeing an increase in pet custody situations, and attorneys are helping to negotiate resolutions much like the resolutions put in place for child custody situations.
The courts will weigh options and consider the individual circumstances of each case when deciding the fate of a dog. If there are children involved, the animals may go back and forth as the children do. If sharing the dog, or other pet, on the same schedule as the children is not a workable option, the dog may go with the party who had it first if one party brought it to the marriage.
One option the court may choose is to breakdown who is the primary caregiver of the pet. This may entail who takes the animal to the vet, who pays for the vet visits and who generally takes care of the pet the most. Each party vying for custody of a pet should take the expense into consideration. This can include vet appointments, walking services, day care and other expenses related to the upkeep of a pet.
For some Pennsylvania couples, the fate of a beloved pet can lead to contentious debates and require negotiations. Outlining a comprehensive list of expenses or reasons why a pet should reside with one party may be the first step toward pursuing ownership of that pet after a divorce. As part of a property settlement, the pet may valuated just as other property and emotional attachment may be considered by each party also as negotiations moves toward a resolution.
Source: bismarcktribune.com, “Who gets the dog in a divorce?”, Oct. 25, 2015