How are pets handled during California divorces?


Many Americans consider their pets to be a member of their family instead of property. One of the reasons divorcing spouses fight so hard over their furry friends is because they develop an attachment to them. Their dog or cat often does so in return.

This makes it hard to understand how family court judges used to assign the beloved pets of divorcing couples a monetary value and split them up like property — as opposed to sharing custody of them like kids.

The handling of pets in a divorce changed on Jan. 1, 2019, in California though. Now, judges will consider who took your dog or cat to the veterinarian, took them on walks, bought them food or toys, spent time with them or cleaned up after them when deciding whether a spouse should be awarded joint or sole ownership.

California is the third state in the country to change their law about how pets are handled during a divorce. Illinois and Alaska both instituted their own similar statutes in 2017.

A spokesperson with the Humane Society of the United States notes that lawmakers in other states have looked into passing similar legislation since California passed their law. Data published in 2014 by researchers with the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers shows the passing of similar laws in other states couldn’t come at a more appropriate time. That year, attorneys reported that pet custody matters being litigated increased by 22 percent over the previous five year period.

All but 12 percent of the cases litigated involved disputes over dogs. Only five percent had to do with cats. The other seven percent of pets fought over included parrots, horses, iguanas, turtles and pythons.

Those numbers have inevitably increased since then.

If there’s one thing that most Orange family law attorneys would want to let those who pose questions know, it would be that while laws may remain constant, their applicability varies depending on each client’s unique situation.

They’d also tell you that the right Orange County divorce lawyer can make all the difference in the outcome of your case. Entrust the handling of your legal matter to a divorce attorney who is willing to tailor their representation approach to your preferences.

2022-03-30T18:02:35+00:0018 Feb 2019|
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