Pennsylvania dog owners may be interested to know how custody of family pets is handled in divorce cases. In the past, pets were usually considered personal property in these types of matters, but it is becoming increasingly common for them to be treated more like the divorcing couple’s children than like their possessions, with custody arrangements being the new norm.
In the past, pets were usually included in the asset division aspect of a divorce. Views about pet custody have changed, and now what is in the best interest of the pet can be a primary factor for some courts. If children are involved as well, their relationship with the pets is also considered.
Judges consider several factors when deciding on pet custody. These include whether one spouse brought the pet into the marriage or if the pet was acquired during the marriage; which spouse spends the most time with the pet and devotes the most time to its care; the living conditions that each spouse would be able to provide for the pet after the divorce; and the financial ability to provide for the pet’s care, which could include veterinary bills, particularly if the pet has special health problems that require special attention.
It is possible for divorcing spouses to attempt to negotiate a pet custody arrangement outside of court, with shared custody or visitation being agreed upon. This could make it easier to obtain court approval. A pet owner who is in this situation and whose marriage is coming to an end may want to obtain the assistance of a family law attorney during this process.