Pennsylvania recognizes pets as property, much like your house, car and other assets. During a divorce, you and your spouse must decide on who takes ownership of your pets. When a couple cannot decide by themselves, a family court judge may determine where a dog or cat will continue to live.
Sometimes, a family pet may end up staying with the children and the custodial parent. If you received an animal as a gift or inheritance, however, it may classify as your own separate property. You may need to inform the court of your ownership rights.
How may an animal stay with me instead of my ex-spouse?
Unless you have an agreement, a pet acquired while married generally belongs to both spouses. You may have bonded with your dog and wish to keep it with you in your post-divorce residence. If your soon-to-be ex-spouse also wishes to take the animal, however, the court may need to intervene.
According to the Pennsylvania General Assembly, several factors determine who takes ownership of marital property, including animals. A judge may, for example, review your ability to feed and care for the pet. The court does not award financial support for animals. Based on your income, you may need to show how you intend to provide for the pet you wish to keep.
What may I do to “buy out” my pet during a divorce?
The value of a pet may require paying your ex-spouse his or her equitable share. For example, a breeding dog or livestock animals that provided your household with income may require an equitable payment. Based on its future income, you and your spouse may agree on a lump sum or “trade” other marital assets for an animal.