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Pennsylvania Divorce News: Pet Custody and Very Low Rates

By Sheryl Rentz on August 20, 2023

Golden Retriever and British Shorthair accompany their owner

Pennsylvania divorce laws and trends are constantly changing. Lawmakers recently introduced a bill to make pet custody a part of Pennsylvania divorce cases. Representative Anita Astorino Kulik introduced House Bill 1108. If passed by the legislature, this proposed legislation will allow for divorce proceedings to resolve matters pertaining to pet custody. The bill proposes that Pennsylvania establish the following factors for family court judges to consider in deciding custody of pets:

  • When the animal was acquired – before or during the marriage
  • Basic daily needs of the pet
  • Who generally facilitates social interaction and veterinary care for the animal
  • Who generally ensures licensing and compliance with state and local regulations
  • Who has the greater ability to financially support the pet

Currently, state law has no special provisions for beloved pets. In divorce proceedings, they are treated the same as a piece of furniture or other inanimate items of marital property. Couples may have trouble reaching agreements on the best arrangements for pets. One party may use a pet as leverage against the other party when negotiating the division of assets.

The new legislation makes it possible to resolve these matters through divorce proceedings. It also allows parties to enter into enforceable agreements outside of a divorce decree that provides for the possession and care of animal companions.

Pennsylvania Has One of the Lowest Divorce Rates in the Nation

A study to determine the states with the highest and lowest divorce rates was recently conducted by PennStakes. Based on data from the National Center for Health Statistics, researchers ranked 46 of the 50 states according to divorce rate, from highest to lowest. Pennsylvania tied with South Carolina at number 32 in this rating, with a divorce rate of 2.4 per 1,000 women in 2021. Nevada has the highest number of divorces, at a rate of 4.2 per 1,000 women. The states with the lowest divorce rates are Texas (1.4), Illinois (1.3), and Massachusetts (1.0) per 1,000 women.

The divorce rate in Pennsylvania appears to have declined in recent years. In 2019, the rate of divorced women per 1,000 married individuals was 6.10%, as stated in an article on U.S. News & World Report. Pennsylvania was rated among the states with the lowest divorce rates for that year as well.

Divorce rates tend to be higher in some states than others, and regional trends also exist. While divorce has been down-trending across the U.S. for the past decade, marriage rates have also dropped. In 2009, the number of new marriages for every 1,000 women aged 15 and older was 17.6. In 2019, that number dropped to 16.3.

Why the Best Attorneys Stay Up to Date on State Laws

Divorce and family laws can vary significantly from one state to another, and the laws can change from one year to the next. It is critical for family law and divorce attorneys to stay up to date on ever-changing state laws.

For example, in Pennsylvania, Act 102 was signed into law by Governor Wolf on December 3, 2016. It changed the minimum waiting period for a no-fault divorce when one spouse does not agree to divorce. Previously, spouses must have lived separately for no less than two years. Now, the minimum period of separation is one year.

Speak with a Trusted Divorce Lawyer

The Law Offices of Sheryl R. Rentz, P.C. is a top-tier Montgomery County firm, representing clients in divorce cases for more than 25 years. Staying up to date on any changes in state law is one of our top priorities. Our Pennsylvania team has the knowledge, skills, and resources to see you through the entire process and help you pursue the best possible outcome.

If you are facing divorce, reach out to a Montgomery County, PA divorce lawyer at (610) 645-0100 for a free initial consultation.

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