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Keep the house; I want the dog.

Divorce not only impacts the human members of our families, but that of our beloved pets’ lives as well. Ask any Family Law Attorney and they can tell you a story about a divorce that dragged on for years over the custody of a family pet, even after all the marital asset issues had been settled. Harrisburg has now begun the process to recognize our emotional attachment to our non-human family-members by proposing a new legislation.

When people think of custody, most think of children. This may soon change, as a bipartisan bill, House Bill No. 1652, was introduced in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives this past summer. This Bill is still being considered at the Judiciary Committee, but if it becomes law, the Pennsylvania Domestic Relations statutes will include criteria on how to determine the “custody” for pets during the proceedings of a divorce. Court officers and Judges will be able to decide to whom our “companion animals” should be awarded while settling a divorce action by weight of several factors in creating a decision.

You may be wondering, how would a Judge or Divorce Master decide who will be awarded ownership, and who will be left in the doghouse? Much like child custody, the courts will consider factors and weigh specific points of information in deciding your pet’s future. Some of these factors include whether the pet was adopted before or during your marriage, which party generally takes care of the daily needs of the pet, and which party is more financially able to provide for the pet.

This bill still has several obstacles to overcome before it becomes a law, and it may never pass; however, this proves that our legislature in Harrisburg recognizes the emotional bond people make with their four-legged family-members. In this regard, Pennsylvania’s lawmakers are not alone. Earlier in 2017, Alaska passed a similar Bill adding a pet provision to the Family and Divorce Law. Read Alaska House Bill 147 HERE.

Whether you are facing a divorce, with or without a beloved pet involved, or if you have a question regarding a legal matter, our office can help. Call us at (717) 461-2420 at any time. We also accept DUI Criminal Defense, Custody, Divorce, Estate Planning, and Veteran’s Disability Benefit cases.

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The Law Office of Jason R Carpenter
4815 Jonestown Road, Ste. 202
Harrisburg, PA 17109

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