Pets and Divorce

What do Pets Mean to Their Owners?

For many people, their pets, especially their dog or cat, are treated like a family member. Throughout the time of owning a pet, people get emotionally attached to their furry companions. This is usually because no matter what or who you are, your pet will always love you unconditionally. There is a reason there is a saying that dogs are “a man’s best friend.” 

What Happens to the Pet During a Divorce?

When you decide to get a divorce, like Children, how do you decide who gets custody of the pet? Pets are not as easily divided as assets and property are, as there are rules governing how property is divided during divorce. Originally, California courts saw pets as physical property that would be divided upon separation, and judges would base their decision on the purchaser and could set their own placement and visitation terms. As of 2019, this changed once California passed assembly bill 2274.

California AB2274

With this new law being passed, family law courts now deal with pets differently during divorce. They now treat it similarly to a child custody case by considering what is best for the pet currently and in the future. The case judge will look at facts to determine who is better suited to feed the pet better, take them on walks, protect them, as well as provide better veterinary care.  

Some other things a judge will consider in the case is if there is a child involved. A judge will want to preserve the bond between the pet and child, and will have them follow the same custody schedule as the child or give the pet to the parent who takes care of the child more often. Sometimes, the judge will order that they sell the dog or have one person “buy” it from the other. 

Options for Ownership

Sole Ownership

Only one of the two people are awarded the right to the pet. They will act as the sole caregiver of the pet. 

Joint Ownership

The judge comes to an arrangement that allows both people to retain some control over the care of the pet. They make terms such as who can see the pet when and how pet bills will be split. 

Factors of Court Consideration

Prenuptial Agreements

Depending on the terms of a prenuptial agreement, California’s equal division of marital property provision may not take place during a divorce. Depending when the pet was brought into their lives and whether they were written into the prenup, it may change how ownership is determined. 

Property Division Disputes

California is a community property state, which means that any type of community property is split equally between both parties, and separate property is kept for themselves. Community property is what you own or owe together during your marriage, while separate property is what you own or owe individually from before marriage and after your separation. 

Need help with settling the terms of the divorce especially when high value assets are involved?  Call a Newport divorce lawyer to help settle the divorce asset divisions fairly.