What will happen to my pets after my divorce?

Most of us love our pets as if they were our children. So, in a divorce, the thought splitting up from them can feel heart-wrenching. In today’s divorces, may spouses have to confront the possibility of shared pet custody – and the answers do not come easily.

How does Pennsylvania handle pet custody?

Pennsylvania courts do not grant pets the same rights as children. Instead, the court considers them personal property. With that said, many judges have begun to consider the welfare and best interests of the animals involved in a divorce. When issuing a ruling regarding pet custody, they will consider factors such as:

  • Who purchased the animal
  • Who provided the primary care for the animal
  • Whether spouses shared care for the animal
  • Who paid for the animal’s veterinary care
  • Who paid for the animal’s supplies

If you purchased the pet and listed yourself as their owner when you had them licensed, you will probably get to keep them with you. However, if you and your ex-spouse adopted your pet together, the animal’s future might be up in the air. If you and your former partner cannot reach an arrangement privately, the verdict will be left to the court. Although family law judges always try to be fair, they might not understand your unique bond with your pet.

Possible pet custody outcomes

Many pet-owners try to resolve matters for themselves before a trial so they can rest assured knowing the fate of their four-legged friends. The first is for one spouse to keep the animal with them permanently. If you have multiple animals, you could take a few and your ex could take the other. The two of you could share time with the pet, alternating days or weeks with them. Or, if one of you keeps the pet full-time, the other could come over for visits and walks.