Who Gets the Pet in a California Divorce?

Thu 15th August, 2019 Family Law

Traditionally, a pet in a divorce case has been considered a piece of personal property, but as of 2019 the law in California regarding pet custody has changed. Starting January 1 of this year, a judge in a divorce case where pet custody is at issue must consider the well-being of the animal when determining which spouse should be awarded custody. This makes California the third state in the country that requires a judge to treat an animal differently than other property in a divorce. If you are fighting with your spouse over who gets the dog in your divorce, let our office of divorce experts help. Call the office or contact us today at the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler to schedule a free consultation of your case

Old Pet Custody Law

Under the old pet custody law, a pet was seen as a piece of personal property that needed to be distributed under the state’s community property laws. If one spouse brought the pet into the marriage, it was seen as separate property, and that spouse got to leave the marriage with the pet regardless of who cared for it during the marriage. If the pet was acquired during the course of the marriage, it was considered community property and needed to be split like any other thing of value in the marital estate. This led to incredibly contentious battles between spouses and caused concern for many who cringed at the idea that a beloved pet, and living creature, was seen equivalent to a couch or a car.

New California Pet Custody Law

The new law was written by Assemblyman Bill Quirk and signed by Governor Jerry Brown, who is known as a dog lover. Under the new law, a spouse can petition the court for sole or joint custody of a pet in a divorce. The judge must consider a number of factors, including which spouse provided food, water, veterinary care, protected shelter, and whether there are any claims of animal cruelty or harm. The new law also allows for one spouse to make a request that one person in the marriage care for the animal while the divorce is ongoing. The new law in California allows the court to acknowledge that for many people, a pet is a member of the family and should be treated with more care by the court than an inanimate piece of personal property.

If you and your spouse are fighting over the custody of your pet, an experienced divorce attorney can help. In order to present the best case for pet custody, evidence is vital to your case. Collect records of veterinary visits, receipts for food, toys, and boarding, and any other records that prove that you are a significant caretaker for your pet. This will allow a lawyer to make the best possible arguments for why you deserve custody of your pet after a divorce.

Call or Contact Us Today

To learn more about the new pet custody laws in California or for a review of your divorce case, call or contact the Law Office of Bradley S. Sandler today.