Certified Family Law Specialist, State Bar of California, and Board of Legal Specialization

You don’t need a survey to know that more and more Americans consider pets as part of the family. In fact, some married couples have chosen to have pets as “kids” rather than human babies. For a long time, pets have been viewed as property, and as such, they were assets – some judges have offered solutions like selling the “property” and splitting the profits as part of the asset division and distribution process.

But now, that has all changed. California was the third state in the United States to pass a law allowing judges to consider what’s in the best interests of the pet – this means they are no longer viewed as inanimate objects to be divided equally at the dissolution of a marriage.

What pet custody means for you and your divorce is different in each case. These are, make no mistake about it, very emotional cases just like child custody cases. Certified Family Law Specialist Jeffrey L. Hoffer provides an overview of pet custody in Agoura Hills. If you have a pet you love and a divorce is imminent, contact an Agoura Hills attorney to get a better understanding of your rights and your options.

What is the State Pet Custody Law?

On January 1, 2019, California unleashed a new law that gives a certain amount of rights to pets – pets are no longer considered property but family. According to California Family Code Section 2605:

(a) The court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may enter an order, prior to the final determination of ownership of a pet animal, to require a party to care for the pet animal. The existence of an order providing for the care of a pet animal during the course of proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties shall not have any impact on the court’s final determination of ownership of the pet animal.

(b) Notwithstanding any other law, including, but not limited to, Section 2550, the court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may assign sole or joint ownership of a pet animal taking into consideration the care of the pet animal.

“Pet animal” refers to any animal that has been kept as a household pet and that is part of the community property. In the latter sense, that means the pet was adopted during the time of marriage as opposed to one spouse already being the pet’s guardian prior to the marriage. Just like other “property,” any property obtained prior to marriage is separate while any property acquired during the marriage is community property with a few exceptions.

Under this law, you can petition the court for custody of a pet. This usually occurs when the ex-spouses or ex-partners cannot agree with who should care for the pet(s).

Factors Impacting Pet Custody Following a Divorce

When a petition for pet custody following a divorce in Agoura Hills, the judge will consider specific factors that will help guide his or her determination about pet custody. These factors include:

  • who primarily cares for the pet;
  • who walks the pet, if applicable;
  • who handles the pet’s medical conditions or vet appointments;
  • who regularly feeds the pet;
  • who actually purchased the pet;
  • who regularly plays with the pet; and, among other similar factors,
  • are their children and if so, are the children attached to the pets and which parent will be the primary custodian (pets will typically go with the children, especially since pets can be a great source of comfort);
  • was the pet a gift, and if so, to which spouse or partner.

Pet custody does not necessarily mean that only one spouse will have custody of the pet (sole ownership). In many cases, joint ownership or shared custody is an option. In those cases, a custody plan is required.

Contact an Agoura Hills Attorney for Information About Pet Custody Following Divorce

Pet custody cases can be very traumatizing cases. People really love their pets just as they do their children. Jeffrey L. Hoffer will help you through the pet custody matter.

It’s always preferable to negotiate via mediation to determine custody without the judge’s involvement. However, if that doesn’t work, a petition can be filed with the court, and Jeffrey L. Hoffer will put forth the best argument for you and your pet. Contact his law office today.

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