Co-parenting pets

Pets are becoming increasingly involved and fought over in divorce conflicts. Oftentimes, pet owners treat their pets like children; and surprisingly, some courts agree and have begun to award custody, visitation and support payments for a pet in domestic cases.

Pennsylvania law, however, considers pets to be personal property. As such, the courts in Pennsylvania generally will not enforce an agreement made between spouses as to the “custody” of a pet and may not award title to a pet to just one of the divorcing parties. For example, in Desanctis v. Pritchard, the parties treated their dog, Barney, as a child and sought shared custody based on a settlement agreement entered into by the two parties pursuant to their divorce. The Superior Court of Pennsylvania, however, found that any agreement, which attempts to award custodial visitation or shared custody of personal property, including a pet, is void as a matter of law. The Court’s view on pet custody is strongly portrayed in its quote that the visitation arrangement sought to be enforced by the parties was “analogous, in law, to a visitation schedule for a table or a lamp.”

For additional information about Pennsylvania family law or the divorce process, or to discuss your particular situation and learn about your options, please schedule a confidential consultation with attorney Joanne Kleiner by calling us at 215-886-1266. Or, fill out our intake form and we will contact you. The decisions you make today really will affect your future. Let us help you make those decisions intelligent and informed.

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Montgomery County Bar Association
Pennsylvania Bar Association
International Academy of Collaborative Professionals