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Let’s Discuss Dog Custody After a Divorce

By Sheryl Rentz on June 20, 2017

golden retriever sitting in the grass

Any dog owner will tell you that he or she views that dog as a member of the family—a child even, or a “fur baby” as they are sometimes called. When an unfortunate event like divorce happens, you might expect the custody of the pet to be treated the same as child custody. However, that is not the case.

No matter how you may personally view your pet, in the eyes of the law, your pet is property. It is split up the same way other assets—such as a car, furniture, or money— are in a divorce.

Desanctis v. Pritchard

Desanctis v. Pritchard set the precedent for pet custody cases.

In this case, the couple outlined in the divorce settlement that the dog would go to wife and the husband would be able to visit.

All was well…until the wife moved far away and wouldn’t let her ex-husband visit the dog anymore. He took her to court, seeking joint custody or set visitation for the dog, and the court ultimately ruled in the wife’s favor.

The Pennsylvania family court stated that, since pets are property, the courts would not facilitate custody or visitation rights. The awarded owner is not obligated or bound by the law to provide any visitation. The two parties can arrange visitation amongst themselves; but keep in mind there will be no legal repercussions if the main owner doesn’t keep up his or her end of the bargain.

Handling Pet Custody

If you have a pet that you can’t bear to part with, make sure your prenuptial agreement clarifies that the pet will go to you in the event of a divorce.

If you did not mention your pet in the prenup, or if there wasn’t one at the time, then you must make it known during the divorce proceedings that you want the pet to go to your custody. A divorce lawyer can work diligently to make sure you get what you want and deserve from the situation.

If you are going through a divorce and have more questions about how to ensure your pet is safely with you, please give us a call at (610) 645-0100 for a free consultation. At the Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C., we have over 25 years of experience in family law and we will guide you step-by-step through this difficult process.

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