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Who gets the pets in a California divorce?

On Behalf of | Jun 28, 2024 | Divorce |

Pets are like family members to many of us and the thought of parting with them can be heartbreaking. As with child custody, who gets pet custody in a California divorce can become a major issue.

The law considers pets to be personal property. This means who gets custody of the pets is something usually discussed and negotiated during the property division process.

This treatment of pets by the legal system could seem harsh to many people, who consider their pets much more than a piece of property.

California’s pet custody law

Fortunately, California recognized this and enacted a new law that states pets are to be treated as more than community, or marital, property in a divorce. The law covers common pets such as dogs and case, as well as any animal that is traditionally considered a household pet.

The law allows judges to analyze and resolve disagreements over who gets custody of a pet the way they would decide a child custody dispute. If you and your spouse cannot agree on who gets to keep a pet, the court will decide who can provide the best care for the pet.

As with child custody, a court examines a list of factors when making this decision. Some of these factors include who purchased or adopted the pet, who takes the pet to the vet, who spends more time with the pet and who takes care of the pet’s daily needs, such as feeding, walking and playing with the pet.

Although many spouses attempt to share these responsibilities equally during a marriage, often one spouse ends up putting more effort into caring for a pet than the other, even if only slightly. This could tip the scales in that spouse’s favor.

Temporary pet custody

Since the divorce process can take time, you may worry about what happens to your pet while the divorce is pending and you wait for a decision from the court. You may file a motion with the court for an order allowing you to take care of the pet until your divorce is final and the issue of pet custody resolved.


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