Many people consider their pets as members of the family and accordingly, when the family breaks up, the parties are concerned over who gets to keep the pets. 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, a count for Equitable Distribution must be raised in order to get the court involved in dividing any property. There are generally two options available when it comes to how property will be divided. First, the parties can reach an agreement on how they will divide property and submit this written agreement to the court so that in the event either parties does not comply, the disgruntled party can file for contempt and the court can assist in enforcing the agreement.
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The other option when it comes to property division is to go to a hearing and let the court decide. If you go this route, the court will likely give the pet to one spouse or the other just as it would any other personal property such as furniture or TVs. It will not get involved in creating a schedule to continue to share the pet post-divorce. This is a great reason to try to come to a settlement agreement as opposed to litigation since an agreement can be as specific as the parties want. The courts rarely get involved in the content of agreements and just want to be sure the agreements are knowingly and voluntarily entered into. If the parties are not married, it is important to trace ownership/financial responsibility for the pet to determine which party is in fact entitled to keep the pet post-separation. You should keep records of purchase/adoption, immunizations, micro-chipping, doctor's appointments, etc. as evidenced proof of ownership.