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How pet custody works in California divorces

| Jul 20, 2021 | Divorce

After your children and your relatives, your pets are the most important pieces of your life. However, if you are preparing for a divorce, you worry about what will happen to your furry loved ones. What if your soon-to-be ex-spouse gets them? Will you ever see them again?

California’s unique pet custody laws

Generally, the law treats animals as pieces of property. When it came to divorce, judges would include the pets in the property distribution arrangement in the same manner as the furniture, cars and other assets. But in 2018, California passed a law that allow ex-spouses to share custody of pets in some situations.

The new measure treats pets similarly to children. It allows family law judges to consider the best interests of an animal when issuing a court order. Judges may also issue shared custody orders for pets.

Who gets the pets?

This law gives extensive leeway to family judges. When making a decision, a judge will consider several factors, including:

  • Which spouse purchased the pet
  • Which spouse’s name is on the pet’s registration
  • Which spouse provided the primary care for the pet
  • Which spouse paid for the pet’s upkeep
  • The relationship of the pet with each spouse

The outcome will prove different for every couple based on their particular circumstances. For instance, one spouse might end up keeping the pet. Spouses might also split time caring for the pet and paying for its upkeep.

What will happen to my pet?

The future for you and your cat, dog, bird, horse or other beloved animal will depend on the aforementioned factors. If you purchased the animal, your name is on its registration and you can demonstrate to the court that you provided care for it, you will probably receive at least partial ownership.