Who Keeps the Pets During a Pennsylvania Divorce?
While some people may feel like their pets are simply roommates, others are much more connected. People have been known to take their pets for walks in strollers, cook them elaborate, special meals, and even allow them to dictate what television shows the family watches. Wherever you find yourself on this pet-lovers spectrum, a Pennsylvania divorce can put a halt to the relationship between you and your pet. Ultimately, if you find yourself in the center of a divorce in PA, in the eyes of our law, a pet is property, and will be divided just as any other property is divided – by financial worth.
The main Pennsylvania case that sets forth the law regarding pets in divorce is called Desanctis v. Pritchard. In this case, a couple outlined that the dog would live with the wife and the husband would be able to visit. Everything was going swell until the wife moved and refused to allow the ex-husband to visit the dog. Ex-hubs took the wife to court – seeking joint custody of the dog – and a set visitation schedule. Hmm. Don’t we wish some parents of human children were as diligent as this ex-husband.
Unsurprisingly, the court ruled in the wife’s favor. Since pets are considered property, Pennsylvania courts would not enforce any custody or visitation rights – so, the legal owner of the dog doesn’t have to provide any visitation. Similar to how the ex-husband is not entitled to watch Sunday night football games on the television that the wife was awarded in equitable distribution. However, two parties are able to create an agreement about any personal property… the court just won’t enforce it.
So, are you wondering how to keep “custody” of your pet during a nasty divorce? Well, it would be helpful to keep proof that you are the actual purchaser of the pet or the one who adopted it. But, if you don’t have that, that’s okay. If you can prove that you did the majority of the caretaking for the pet that may be enough. Proof of caretaking could be receipts for vet bills, witnesses that can vouch for you being the one who took the pet for walks, etc. In addition, any document that requires the signature of the pet’s owner can be helpful when the court is dividing property. Some documents that require signatures are license and registration, vet records, microchip records, and/or pedigree records.
If you are very concerned about possibly losing your beloved pet during a divorce, drafting a pre- or postnuptial agreement may not be a bad idea. While provisions in the divorce agreement related to visitation with the pet can’t be legally enforced, if the pre- or postnuptial agreement outlines who should retain “custody” of the pet after the divorce, then the court will abide by that agreement.
We understand that pets can seem just like family. Give us a call today and we can discuss the best way to keep you and your pet together during a Pennsylvania divorce. Heck. We’ll even help you decide on the best stroller for your pet.
…. okay…. We won’t really advise you on the best pet stroller.
*Our office accepts Pennsylvania family law cases including divorce, equitable distribution, spousal support, alimony pendente lite, alimony, paternity and child support matters, child custody cases, juvenile law cases, and related matters in Allegheny County (Pittsburgh), Beaver County, Berks County, Butler County, Clearfield County, Washington County, and Westmoreland County (Greensburg).
Our law firm accepts Pennsylvania family law cases from other Pennsylvania counties including Armstrong County (Kittanning), Clarion County, Fayette County, Greene County, Indiana County, Lawrence County, Mercer County, Somerset County, and Venango County.*