In addition to child custody and property division, determining which party gets to keep the family pet in a divorce is a major concern for Pennsylvania couples preparing for a legal split. For some divorcing couples, informal shared custody arrangements are the best option in a legal system that treats pets like property rather than family members. Nearly 80 million American households report owning a pet, according to the American Pet Products Association.
Two out of every five couples who marry end up divorced, raising the question of who gets custody of their companion animals. The courts are reluctant to arbitrate pet custody and when they do, the arrangement is often identical to those offered for dividing property such as houses and cars. Nonetheless, emotional attachment can cause pets to become one of the most heated aspects of divorce negotiations.
Judges can exercise significant discretion when it comes to what to do with a companion animal during a divorce. So far, most judges have refused to deliver custody arrangements or hold hearings for pet custody. Instead, couples can hire lawyers to draft a separate contract. While these legal agreements may not always be taken seriously in court, they can help prevent further hostility between divorcing spouses.
Going through a divorce is a difficult process, especially when matters of custody and property division arise. From traditional child custody arrangements to determining the ownership of a pet, a lawyer may be able to provide the representation that a divorcing party needs. A lawyer may work to ensure that his or her client is represented fairly and help draft agreements that facilitate a fair pet custody arrangement. Pets may not have the same protections as children in the legal system, but drafting documentation is often a good step toward ensuring that their well-being is taken into account.