Pennsylvania parents who decide to end their marriages must negotiate fair and agreeable settlements that include terms regarding the care and upbringing of their children. One of the main issues to be resolved in such situations is which parent will have physical custody of the kids. Sometimes, the court decides that a shared custody arrangement is best; other times, a judge may deem a parent unfit. In recent years, the subject of pets has made its way into custody proceedings in divorce.

In the past, pet care has typically been included in property division proceedings. However, more and more often nowadays, disputes regarding which spouse will own a dog, cat or other pet have been litigated as custody issues. The Pittsburgh Post- Gazette recently published a story about a woman who refused to accept compensation in exchange for allowing her ex to take her pet, a dog that she said her spouse had given to her as a Christmas present.

In child custody cases, the court focuses on what is best for the children involved. This prompted the former California Governor Jerry Brown to sign a bill when he was in office that outlined guidelines for judges to determine what is best for a pet. With this law in effect, a spouse can now petition the court for custody of a pet. A few other states have similar statutes in place, and still more are reviewing California’s plan for the purpose of possibly enacting similar laws to more clearly define the rules regarding pet disagreements in divorce.

Divorce can be quite complicated and emotionally upsetting when spouses fight over property, children or pets. When an experienced Pennsylvania family law attorney acts on behalf of a spouse, it is often possible to avoid contentious situations. In fact, overcoming any legal obstacle that arises during proceedings if often easier when one has an attorney on hand to help determine a best course of action.