For some couples, pets are a substitute for children they either chose not to have or who have already left the family nest. For other families, pets are a beautiful addition to an already full and vibrant family. Regardless of which category you belong in, you should take the time to familiarize yourself with the way that Pennsylvania currently handles pets in a divorce. Is it possible for you to ask for shared custody or visitation with a pet as part of your divorce proceedings?
While you know that your pet is not a mere possession, under the law in Pennsylvania, your companion animal is just another piece of property. The courts typically will not assist you in arranging or enforcing a pet visitation schedule. Instead, they will simply allocate ownership of the pet to one spouse or the other. Although state lawmakers have introduced legislation that could change this practice, the bill has not made it out of committee and gone to a vote of the full assembly.
If sharing pet custody is important to you in your divorce, then arranging for an uncontested divorce where you and your spouse work out your own terms might be the best solution for your family. While the Pennsylvania courts likely won’t create pet custody arrangements, they may approve them as part of an uncontested divorce filing.
Barring that approach, you may have to accept that your ability to interact with your beloved pet may require the goodwill of your spouse if they are the one who keeps the animal in the divorce. Whichever route you choose, your attorney can help seek the arrangement you believe is best for your pet.