Courts across the country have plenty of laws and guidelines related to child custody and visitation. Things get trickier, however, when it comes to deciding who should get the beloved family pets.
Traditionally, pets have been considered property - like couches or toasters - and their best interests were not considered in a divorce. Today, certain states are beginning to change their views.
After all, pets are inherently different from other types of property. You can't create a trust for your toaster, but you can likely do so for your pets. And you won't get charged with "cruelty to furniture" if you hit your sofa, but you may get charged with "cruelty to animals" if you beat your dog.
The Numbers Keep Going Up
According to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers and quoted in The New York Times, the number of custody disputes involving pets has significantly increased over the past few years. In San Diego, for example, one couple spent two years and approximately $150,000 battling over custody of a pointer-greyhound named Gigi.
Custody disputes are not limited to dogs and cats, either. Some divorcing couples have fought over who should get to keep pet pythons, parrots, giant turtles and iguanas.
What Does This Mean In Pennsylvania?
Early this year, Alaska's new "pet custody legislation" went into effect. However, Pennsylvania is nowhere near Alaska in terms of taking the best interests of the pets into consideration during divorce.
If you are a pet owner who is planning to divorce in Pennsylvania, be sure to consult an experienced family law attorney here who can fully explain your rights and options under our current law. Understanding your rights ahead of time will make the process easier on both you and the animals you love.