Treatment of Pets in Divorce: Family or Furniture?
When a marriage ends, many people are confronted with the uncomfortable situation of deciding what to do with family pets. Even though many pet owners view their pet as a member of the family, animals are generally considered property under the law. As a result, judges can simply regard a pet in a divorce case the same way they would a table or a chair. In Pennsylvania, a judge can choose to consider an animal’s well-being in a divorce case, but it’s up to their discretion.
This is no longer the case in Alaska, who has specifically said that a pet has visibility in a divorce proceeding beyond that of property. Earlier this year, the state amended its divorce code so that judges are required to consider animal welfare in divorce cases where the parties have a pet. As a result, custody will be awarded on the basis of what is best for the pet, not the human owners. Alaska’s new amendments also take pets into consideration in cases involving domestic violence by allowing courts to include animals in restraining orders and requiring abusers to pay support to their victims for pets in their care.
So far Alaska is the only state to amend their divorce code to address the issue, however it will be interesting to see how many states follow suit. This area of the law is constantly changing so if you or someone you know needs assistance with this aspect of your divorce, please contact LaMonaca Law at (610) 892-3877.