Treatment of Pets in Divorce: Family or Furniture?

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.

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About the author

About Jennifer Lemanowicz

Jennifer attended College of Charleston in Charleston, South Carolina, before being awarded a Merit Scholarship to Widener University School of Law. Following law school, Jennifer worked for a general practice firm where she gained experience in a variety of legal areas, including family law, non-profit law, and estate planning and administration. Jennifer joined LaMonaca Law as an associate in 2015, and concentrates her practice on matters of family law, including all aspects of divorce, support and custody proceedings. Jennifer is a whiz with a spreadsheet and is a member of the firm’s Forensic Support Team, which specializes in cases involving high value assets or complex marital estates. Jennifer is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, as well as the Montgomery County and Delaware County Bar Associations, and she was recently recognized as a “Best Lawyer” by the Delaware County Daily Times. Outside of work, Jennifer enjoys listening to true crime podcasts, going out to eat with friends, and spending time with her family.