Who Gets the Dog?
March 5, 2018

In reading the last blog on our website (Providing for Our Pets – In Sickness and in Health), it reminded me of how often a pet can become an unexpected part of a divorce.  Most pet owners, myself included, view our pets as, well, frankly, our children.

Unfortunately, that is not how the court views our beloved dog or cat.  The law in Pennsylvania is well-settled relating to pets: they are considered personal property.  How that applies in a divorce situation is that Rover is considered to be the equivalent of a couch or a dining room table.  If you are shaking your head and thinking that is an absurd comparison, believe me, you are not alone.

Regrettably, from the court’s perspective, there is no wiggle room here.  If the parties simply cannot agree who is going to keep possession of the cat, a spouse’s emotional attachment to Garfield is not something the court entertains when making its decision.  However, if necessary, when deciding who gets Lassie, the court will consider how he came to live with the couple, whether one spouse’s name is on his AKC registration, and other relevant factors.

You may have heard about couples sharing custody of their dog, and the thought usually produces a chuckle, but it is a possibility and I have encouraged clients to consider the option rather than letting the court decide.

But, at the end of the day, if the court does have to make the decision, your best pal will be awarded to one spouse in the same manner as the big screen television.  This is a difficult concept to stomach for most pet-loving clients, which is why I believe it is a good idea for the spouses to come to an agreement about where Odie will live after the divorce rather than letting that decision up to the court.

If you would like more information, please contact Susan E. Good, Esquire at Daley Zucker Meilton & Miner, LLC at (717) 724-9821.

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