There is no custody court for pets of divorcing parties. So, even though many people consider their pets to be another member of the family, a pet will be treated as property and dealt with through the equitable division of marital property. The best way to avoid this conflict, and other property issues which arise during divorce, is to consult an attorney in Pennsylvania who can draft a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement which lays out what will happen to family pets and other marital property in the event of a divorce.
When no agreement exists, marital property is dealt with through the Divorce Code, Title 23, Section 3501, et seq. Like all division of marital property, a court will conduct a fact-intensive inquiry to determine which property goes to which spouse. The court may consider whether the pet was owned by one spouse prior to the marriage. Generally speaking, property owned by a spouse prior to marriage will not be marital unless it increased in value during the marriage. Another factor the court may consider is who was responsible for the pet’s care during the marriage. If there are children of the divorcing couple, a court may consider who the children will be primarily residing with and whether the children had a strong bond with the family pet. Lastly, the court may look to who is better suited to care for the pet by considering each spouse’s housing, schedules and finances.