What Happens to the Family Pet?

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Many people consider their pets as members of the family and accordingly, when the family breaks up, custody of the pets can become an issue. While pets may be considered members of the family from the perspective of the owners, the courts in Pennsylvania deal with pets the same way as they deal with other inanimate personal property in the event of a divorce.

Parties can elect to enter an agreement on who will get the family pet or if there is a schedule to share the pet. This written agreement should be submitted to the court so that in the event either party does not comply, the disgruntled party can file for contempt and the court can assist in enforcing the agreement. The other option is to seek court intervention. This would require raising a count for Equitable Distribution in the Divorce Complaint. If you must go this route, understand the court will give the pet to one spouse or the other just as it would any other personal property such as furniture or TVs. Increase your likelihood of retaining your pet by showing you were the party that purchased the pet and/or you were the party that primarily cared for the pet in terms of vet appointments, grooming, etc.