Divorce and Pet Custody

Before 2018, in divorce proceedings pets were considered to be property, meaning that one spouse would become the sole owner of the pet after divorce. At that time, if you did not become the sole owner of a pet, you may never see the pet again.

However, due to new legislation, after January 1, 2019, judges in court proceedings throughout California are to defer to the best interest and care of the animal. Below are some key points in this relatively new law regarding pet custody:

  • Either spouse can petition an order seeking custody of their pet.
  • Companion animals must be treated differently from other kinds of marital property.
  • California courts can establish a custody-like arrangement (shared custody) between the separating or divorcing spouses and their pets.
  • The court can enter an order requesting one spouse to take care of the animal before final ownership is determined.
  • The court will assign joint or sole ownership of community property pets taking the pet’s well-being into consideration.

Some of the factors that a court may consider when determining the shared custody of a pet are as follows:

  • Safety and health of the pet
  • Spouse who covers the vet costs
  • Spouse who acquired the pet
  • Spouse who has a more emotional connection with the pet
  • Spouse with enough resources or space to care for the pet
  • Spouse that puts the most time in to feed, play with, and otherwise care for the pet
  • Spouse who often manages the animal’s daily needs
  • Which spouse is the better care provider
  • Spouse whose name the animal is registered under

Since pets are considered to be community property in California, a family court may assign joint and sole ownership of the pet.

If you are considering divorce and would like to have a divorce attorney that is experienced in dealing with pet custody issues, contact SmartLaw today.

Serving Southern California counties, SmartLaw is the best way to find the right qualified legal resource. SmartLaw is certified by the State Bar of California and the American Bar Association. SmartLaw is a public service of the Los Angeles County Bar Association.

The materials and information available on this website are for informational purposes only. The materials and information available on this website are not for the purpose of providing legal advice and should not be relied upon or used in place of legal advice from an attorney. You should contact an attorney to receive advice with respect to any particular issue or problem you may have. For free assistance finding the right legal resource, contact SmartLaw by calling (866)SMARTLAW or by visiting us at SmartLaw.org.

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