For many couples, a pet is a member of the family, and when those couples divorce, the custody of a pet can be an incredibly contentious issue. If both spouses want custody of a pet in a Pennsylvania divorce, who gets the dog? How do you increase your chances of winning custody of your pet in a Pennsylvania divorce? There are some steps you can take to increase your chances of winning custody of the pet if you and your spouse can not agree.
Pet Custody Law in Pennsylvania
Some states in recent years have adopted a “best interests” approach to their law when determining the custody of pets in a divorce. The courts in these cases may award joint custody to both spouses for their pets if they can not agree on where the pet should live and recognize that pets and people do develop a special relationship that merits consideration. However, Pennsylvania has not adopted the new best interests standard of states like Alaska and Illinois. In Pennsylvania, pets are still seen as personal property and as such, they are distributed like any other piece of property. Only one spouse is given the pet in a Pennsylvania divorce, and the other spouse has no rights to visitation or shared ownership after a divorce.
Factors Determining Pet Custody
The first factor in determining pet custody is when the pet was acquired. If the pet was acquired prior to the marriage, the spouse who brought the pet into the marriage gets custody as non-marital property. If the pet was acquired after the marriage, the court looks at a number of factors to determine which spouse will keep the pet once the divorce is finalized as a piece of marital property.
You can present the court with a number of pieces of evidence to prove that you deserve custody of your pet in a Pennsylvania divorce. If your name is on the adoption papers or you paid for the dog, provide copies for the court. Receipts that prove that you covered the majority of veterinarian bills, kennel costs, food, and toys for your pet also increase your chances of winning the pet in the divorce. Proving that you are able to house the pet after the divorce also helps.
Another way to ensure that you win custody of the pet after a divorce in Pennsylvania is through a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. Because a pet is considered personal property in Pennsylvania, custody can be determined in the division of assets of these legal documents, unlike determinations of child custody and support. Utilizing a pre- or postnuptial agreement can eliminate a disagreement about pet custody before it even arises.
Call or Contact a Pennsylvania Divorce Attorney Today
If you have concerns about the custody of your pet in a Pennsylvania divorce, an experienced divorce attorney in your area may be able to help. Call or contact the Martin Law Firm today to discuss your legal options.