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Pennsylvania Divorce Issues: Who Gets the Pet in a Divorce?

By Sheryl Rentz on August 8, 2012

After a married couple has made the decision to end their union, there are a number of things that must be decided during the divorce process, including the division of property, settling financial issues, and deciding who gets custody of the … pets? It is certainly true that a couple may come to love their four-legged friend as if it was their own child; as such, the issue of who will receive custody may be a contentious matter during the divorce process. The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reports that attorneys have seen a significant increase in pet custody cases, and issues in such cases can range from visitation rights to how veterinarian bills are split.

Under the law, pets are considered to be personal property capable of human ownership and control, and courts working under that law may only have the authority to award the pet to one of the owners. Conventionally, before a court decides who gets what property in a divorce, it must consider whether it’s a community property or an equitable distribution state. Pennsylvania is an equitable distribution state, and the division of marital property includes anything acquired during the marriage. The court will also take into account whether the couple already has an agreement as to who will receive what property, such as a prenuptial agreement.

Ultimately, the court will consider the same factors and go through the same steps when deciding which half of a twosome will receive sole custody of the pet. However, some courts are beginning to change this analysis and may treat pets more like children, rather than personal property. According to, this has primarily occurred with dogs, and courts have considered the best interests of the pet in determining who will get custody. In addition, shared custody, visitation rights, and alimony payments have been awarded to owners.

Deciding who will receive custody of the pet is only one of the matters that must be settled and agreed upon in a divorce, and the entire divorce process can sometimes feel overwhelming for the parties involved who are already dealing with a tremendous amount of stress. Montgomery County divorce lawyer Sheryl R. Rentz has the knowledge and experience you need to efficiently resolve all of the matters related to your divorce so you can begin rebuilding your life. Call (610) 645-0100 to discuss your case.

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