Pets are treated as “community property” in California divorces, which means that the court will take into consideration the best interest of the pet when determining who gets custody. Some factors that the court might consider include:
- Who primarily took care of the pet during the marriage (feeding, grooming, walking, etc.).
- Who can provide a stable and suitable home environment for the pet.
- The emotional connection and relationship between the pet and each spouse.
- The ability of each spouse to provide for the pet’s needs (such as food, veterinary care, and companionship).
In some cases, the court may award joint custody of the pet, with a schedule for sharing time and responsibilities. It is also possible for the parties to negotiate their own agreement regarding pet custody, which can then be approved by the court.
If you are going through a divorce and have concerns about your pets, it is important to consult with a family law attorney who can provide guidance based on your specific situation.
Changing Laws: Pets as More Than “Personal Property”
How Traditional Rules of Equitable Distribution Property Division in Divorce Applied to Pets in a Pet Ownership Battle
Traditionally, pets have been treated as personal property in divorce cases, meaning that they are subject to the same rules of property division of marital property as other assets like cars, furniture, and bank accounts. However, in recent years, there has been a growing recognition of the emotional attachment people have to their pets and the importance of their well-being.
In some jurisdictions, judges may consider factors such as who primarily cared for the pet, who has the financial means to provide for the pet’s needs, and who has a stronger emotional attachment to the animal. Indeed, California has pet custody laws that apply. Click here to access California Family Code § 2605.
Pet Ownership | Who Gets Dog in Divorce?
Various factors may be used to determine who should be awarded ownership, similar to how child custody is determined. For example, the person who gets the dog depends on many factors.
If the dog is an emotional support animal companion animal or a trained service animal, then the party who needs the service animal is likely the one who gets the dog. If it is an emotional support animal and one of the children is attached to the animal, who gets the dog may be determined by child custody considerations.
On the flip side, if there is animal abuse or dog owners that harm the animals, then that will tend to reduce the chance of the person having ownership of the dog.
The bottom line is that the court can treat pets with many factors related to the ownership of the dog. An animal’s well-being is important because we oftentimes consider them as human children! Indeed, divorcing spouses should work out a shared custody schedule with routine vet visits and have this as part of a written agreement. However, if only one person wants sole custody, then shared custody would not be good to include in a settlement agreement.
New Law – California Family Code § 2605
In the past, pets were generally treated as personal property in divorce proceedings and subject to the same rules of property division as other assets. Pet animal laws in California, however, have changed that. Divorcing spouses who have a legal separation can now ask the court to issue an order regarding custody of the beloved pet pursuant to California Fam. Code § 2605. While no alimony payments would be made towards the pet’s ownership, there could be visitation rights because pets are no longer considered personal property because of the new law.
Under the new law, visitation schedules can be established. A skilled divorce attorney, such as James Arrasmith, can help establish a shared custody visitation plan with visitation rights for the parties under the new laws. James Arrasmith can help determine the best interests of the pet prior to the filing of a court action.
Certain things to consider are who would be responsible for the vet bills under the new law, especially if the pet’s owner is only with one spouse. James Arrasmith has experience with dealing with a companion animal and emotional support animal, and, as a divorce attorney in Sacramento, California, he has experience with family members who want to establish visitation rights regarding who will care for the pet.
Pet Custody Court Hearings Under the New Law in California
The new California law concerning pet custody has changed the game. Now, there can be pet custody hearings in divorce court, and, at these hearings, one spouse may be the one who gets the dog if she can show that the best interests of the dog will be served because they can care for the pet and pay the vet bills.
Another argument could be that the pets are companion animals for one party and that they need companion animals as one of the factors related to determining pet custody.
There are emotional and practical needs that should be taken into account when determining ownership. In some cases, judges may even award joint custody of a pet to both parties, much like they would with child custody. Divorce laws can be hard to navigate, and the divorce laws concerning the new law are something best handled by a professional attorney.
Community Property Laws in a California Divorce
California has passed laws that treat pets more like children than personal property. These laws allow for the establishment of pet trusts, which are legal arrangements that allow for the care and maintenance of pets after their owners have passed away.
This can be particularly important in divorce cases where one spouse may have a stronger bond with the pet and want to ensure that it is taken care of properly in the event of their death.
Overall, the trend toward recognizing pets as more than just property is a positive development for both pet owners and their furry companions. It acknowledges the emotional attachment that many people have to their pets and ensures that their well-being is taken into account in divorce proceedings.
How Do Judges Decide Which Spouse Gets the Family Pet in a Divorce?
When deciding which spouse gets the family pet in a divorce, judges typically use the same factors that they would use when making a decision about the division of other types of property.
However, as I mentioned earlier, some states have begun to recognize that pets have special emotional and practical needs that should be taken into account when determining custody. As a result, judges may also consider other factors, such as:
- Primary caregiver: Judges may look at which spouse was the primary caregiver for the pet during the marriage, including who was responsible for feeding, walking, and taking the pet to the vet.
- Emotional attachment: Judges may consider which spouse has a stronger emotional attachment to the pet and how important the pet is to each spouse.
- Ability to provide for the pet’s needs: Judges may also consider which spouse is better able to provide for the pet’s practical needs, including financial resources, living arrangements, and schedule flexibility.
- Child custody: If the divorcing couple has children, judges may consider the impact that losing a pet would have on the children and may attempt to maintain consistency in the pet’s living arrangements to minimize disruption for the children.
It’s important to note that each case is unique, and judges have a great deal of discretion when making the ownership of pets decisions. Ultimately, the decision about who gets the family pet will depend on the specific facts and circumstances of the case.
Can I Sue for Pet Ownership Under California Law?
Generally, pet ownership is determined by proof of ownership, such as a bill of sale or adoption papers, or by evidence of who has been the primary caregiver for the pet. Thus, if you are not divorced, then you can sue a person for your pets.
Most pets are considered part of the family, so it is important to assert your rights. The best interest of the pet, including the care of the pet and the pet’s veterinary care, are factors that should be considered when determining the best interests of the pet.
Written Agreement Concerning Our Human Children (aka, our Pets) Under California Law
It is possible to have an agreement concerning ownership of our pets. This agreement can be for shared custody or can allow the other spouse to have primary custody. It is important to note that, in a divorce case, one owner may be the person to get custody of the dog, rather than the two parties.
Family Dog Law
A dog is considered a member of a household and is often regarded as a companion, friend, and family member. A court of law can consider many other factors in determining the equitable distribution of the family dog.
A settlement agreement that invokes shared custody may be in the interest of the animal, and the pet animal may be decided by a court of law and argued by a divorce attorney. The care for the pet and visitation rights will be considered.
Pet Custody Laws: Not Just Property Division
Pet owners and pet ownership itself can evoke a lot of emotion. Thankfully, in California, there is a new law that concerns pet custody, and the community property division of pets in a divorce case is different than it was before the new law. The person who can care for the pet the most and who can show that they spend the vast majority of the time with companion animals will have a higher chance of obtaining custody under a court of law in a divorce case.
Lawyer James Arrasmith Can Help with the Custody of Pets
Overall, the trend toward recognizing companion animals as more than just property in a divorce is a positive development for pet owners and their furry companions. It acknowledges the emotional attachment that many people have to their pets and ensures that their well-being is taken into account in custody disputes.
If you need assistance in obtaining sole or joint ownership of your family pet, and if you want to be the one owner who considers the pet to be part of the family and have a judge’s decision be in your favor, call or text 916-704-3009 for a consultation.
As an animal owner myself, I am very much aware of emotionally attached pets that equitable distribution may not be best for the two parties, and that a verbal agreement regarding custody would be best with your ex-spouse.
In the vast majority of the cases, the new law allows a judge in a court of law to determine custody of the pets, and it is important to contact a skilled attorney, such as James Arrasmith, to help you with the divorce proceeding and the law that will be implicated in court.
An animal can be essential for some people, and a good divorce attorney can help ensure that the care for the pet is given to the party who needs the companion animal the most. Contact us if you are dog owners or cat owners who need a divorce attorney to assist with community property division, marital property division, or pet ownership concerns. We are here to help.
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