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New law may better address pets' needs in a divorce

There is a lot a divorcing couple will need to decide upon when going through the court proceedings. Some of the most important items are child custody and alimony. However, couples may overlook plenty of minute, yet critical, issues. For example, the couple will need to decide who will get the pet once the divorce is final. 

Representative Anita Astorino Kulik recently introduced H.B. 1432, which would give judges more guidelines to follow when determining which spouse should retain custody of a pet in a divorce. Over the years, many people have complained that a judge acted too callously toward the pet and did not consider all the factors before making a decision. Alaska became the first state to make pets more of a priority in a divorce, and hopefully, Pennsylvania will follow suit. 

The factors judges will use

The bill outlines six factors judges would need to use. They include:

  • Which spouse has the best ability to financially support the pet
  • Which spouse can better remain in compliance with local and state regulations, such as purchasing dog licenses
  • Which spouse can better provide "social interaction"
  • Which spouse generally takes the pet to the vet
  • Who can better meet the pet's daily needs
  • Whether one spouse acquired the pet prior to the marriage

A similar bill came up before in the House, but it went nowhere. Many people end up surrendering the pet because they end up with the animal and later find out they cannot provide for it financially. Animal shelters around Pennsylvania see a lot of animals in this situation, so the ultimate goal of the bill is to ensure dogs and cats remain in loving homes and stay off the streets. While the bill still has a ways to go before it becomes law, it already has 13 co-sponsors, so the prospects look good. 

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