Getting divorced can be a stressful and emotional time for all parties involved, especially when there is a beloved pet that needs to be considered. In Pennsylvania, the law generally considers pets to be property, so the same rules that apply to other property in a divorce also apply to pets. That being said, if you are going through or considering a divorce, it is important to understand how Pennsylvania courts handle property division matters.
Property Division in Pennsylvania Divorces
The first step in determining who gets custody of the pet is understanding how Pennsylvania handles marital property division. In most states, including Pennsylvania, all marital assets are divided "equitably" during a divorce—meaning each spouse is entitled to an equal share of any assets or debts acquired during the marriage.
Marital assets include any property or item acquired during your marriage. Thus, if you adopted or purchased your pet while married, the pet is subject to division.
It is also important to note that commingled assets are also subject to division. Commingled assets are separate assets (i.e. assets acquired before your union) that have been maintained using marital funds or with the use of your partner’s skills or expertise.
For instance, if you obtained your dog before your marriage, the dog is not subject to division. However, the dog may be subject to division even if you obtained them before your union—if you used marital funds to cover the dog’s medical expenses or care, because the dog would be considered commingled in this case.
Custody of Pets During Divorce
The tricky part about dividing up pets like other marital assets is that they cannot actually be split down the middle—so rather than awarding one party 50% ownership of a pet (which would obviously not work), it's typically up to the court (or both spouses) to decide which spouse will get full physical and legal custody of the animal after the divorce has been finalized. Generally speaking, a court will look at several different factors when determining which party should have custody rights over a pet, such as:
- each spouse's financial resources for caring for the animal,
- who had primary responsibility for caring for it during the marriage,
- who has more time available for taking care of it after separation or divorce proceedings begin, etc.
In cases where both spouses agree on who should have custody rights over the animal—and can demonstrate proof that they can financially support its ongoing care—the court will usually rubber-stamp their agreement without problem.
Get Legal Help
Ultimately, if you are facing a dispute with your ex-spouse over who should get custody of your family pet, filing uncontested can help ensure you have more autonomy over the decision. At Cairns Law Offices, our attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options, and our firm can help you file a no-fault, uncontested divorce for only $219.
Learn more about our divorce services today. Call (888) 863-9115 or reach out to our firm online today.