Who Gets to Keep the Family Pet After a Divorce?

November 29, 2022
West Chester Divorce Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Divorcing Couples With Custody and Personal Property Disputes.

In most households in, pets are a cherished part of the family, sometimes forming bonds similar to that of a parent and a child. Since many people treat their pets like their own, the question must be asked: what happens to the family pet after a divorce? Who legally gains custody of the pet should a divorce happen?

Although many owners treat their pets like family, in Pennsylvania, pets are considered personal property. This means that in the event of a divorce, even if you entered into an agreement with your former spouse about custody of the pet, a Pennsylvania judge will not enforce this agreement.

There are a few scenarios to consider in regard to who gets to keep the pet:

  • Since pets are viewed as property, a prenup may determine who gets to keep the family pet after a divorce.
  • If the pet was originally owned by one spouse before the marriage, then they would likely end up being sole owner.
  • If the pet was purchased during the marriage, then whoever made the purchase, with proof of receipt, will likely become the sole owner of the pet.
  • It is best to decide custody arrangements for the pet during the divorce. Otherwise, the courts will need to determine custody.
  • To prove ownership of the pet, a receipt might have to be presented or a pet license that displays the name of the owner. Even statements from friends or family of who owns the pet might sway the court on who owns the pet.
  • In the event of the family having children, if the children are closely attached to pet, then the parent that receives custody of the children may also receive custody of the pet. This is because many of the decisions made during a divorce is in the best interest of the children, and keeping the pet will likely bring some form of normalcy for them.
  • In some cases, the judge may allow both parties to express how important the pet is to them and may consider this on who claims ownership; however, feelings are generally not associated with ownership.
  • It is possible that the couple can still share ownership of the pet after a divorce, much like there is shared custody of a child. However, if the marriage did not end amicably, it may not be a good idea for shared custody of the pet.
  • A Pennsylvania family court will not help unmarried couples should a split occur and there is a dispute over the pet. Instead, an unmarried couple would need to resort to civil court and enforce their rights of ownership.
  • Finally, in more recent cases, courts may look at the pet’s best interests to decide who receives custody, as they may see who cared for the pet or provided medical help, training, etc.

West Chester Divorce Lawyers at Eckell Sparks Help Divorcing Couples With Custody and Personal Property Disputes

If you are seeking a divorce, you need a lawyer on your side. Contact one of our West Chester divorce lawyers at Eckell, Sparks, Levy, Auerbach, Monte, Sloane, Matthews & Auslander, P.C. Call us at 610-565-3701 or fill out our online form for an initial consultation. Located in Media and West Chester, Pennsylvania, we serve clients in Delaware County, Chester County, and Montgomery County.