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Pet Custody: Who Gets The Family Pet In A California Divorce?

pet custody

To many, especially those without children, pets are beloved members of the family. Navigating through pet custody legalities can be confusing and cause anxiety about potentially losing your pet, but luckily with newer laws set in place and guidance from a trusted attorney you can come to an agreement over your pet’s ownership.

California Pet Ownership Laws

Prior to January 2019, pets were considered property, and considered no different than any material possession. In 2019, AB 2274 was enacted into law, adding Section 2605 to California’s Family Code, which separated pets from other types of inanimate marital assets.

This new law requires the court to assign sole or joint ownership of the pet when requested, and also asks the court to take consideration of the care and well-being of the pet when custody is being determined. Temporary custody can also be given during the time of the divorce being reviewed, based on the well-being of the pet.

Determining Your Pet’s Well Being

A judge will consider a few factors when establishing pet custody, including:

  • Who takes more responsibility for feeding, walks, and playtime with the pet
  • Who has taken the pet to a majority of veterinarian appointments
  • Who’s name the animal is registered under
  • Who has sufficient space and time to take care of the animal

Your emotional well-being can also be a consideration when determining pet custody during your divorce. It may not be necessary to claim your pet as a support animal, but the court will look into the emotional connection each individual has with the pet.

Mediation

Court is not the only option when regarding the custody of your pet. Mediation is a way to reach agreements without bringing your case to court. This involves reduced costs, faster outcomes, confidentiality, and greater control of the situation. While you might not resolve every decision during mediation, the process itself can help resolve some issues, leaving time and focus on the unresolved issues you may need to take to court.

When both partners have an exceptional attachment to their pet, and when no prenuptial agreement is in place, a dispute during the divorce is common. Sometimes during a divorce, ownership over the pet may have another underlying issue, and the pet may become a grasp for power and control, rather than caring about the well-being of the pet.

Caring for Your Pet Through and After Divorce

Pets can often pick up on our energy and stress levels, and the changes that ensue after a divorce can not only be a difficult transition for you, but for your pet as well. A divorce can impact pets due to total change in routine, especially when getting less attention and exercise due to only having one caregiver. Separation anxiety and depression can be common when separated from a family member.

Helping Your Pet Transition Through Divorce

  • Being mindful of routine: Dogs specifically like routine, and benefit from having a sustained daily schedule where they are walked and fed at times they are accustomed to. Before any major changes are made, you can get your dog used to a new schedule if possible. Reaching out to friends or family to help with walking or feeding times can be beneficial, or hiring a walker or pet sitter who can help when transitioning your dog or pet into a new routine.
  • Help them settle in: After a move, if a dog or pet has not had enough time to settle into new surroundings, they might develop separation anxiety. This may include excess barking, howling, or destructive behavior when left alone. If possible, take extra days to help your pet transition and feel more comfortable in their new home and routine before leaving them alone and going back to work.
  • Bringing them to work, or choosing doggy daycare: If none of the above is possible, it could be beneficial to look into doggy daycare while you’re at work and still settling into a new routine. Some workplaces have happily allowed pets to be brought into work. It may be in the best interest for both you and your pet to grant visitation rights for your pet, and co-ownership can be attained.

Hiring a California Divorce Attorney

Even with the most amicable discussions, a divorce lawyer will review your agreements, and can help ensure your rights are protected. Besides pet ownership, a divorce requires many different issues to navigate through. Having an experienced divorce attorney at your side can help guide you through the process, giving you a higher chance of getting the outcome you were hoping for.

At Hann Law Firm, we take a personal approach from the very start. We address your specific challenges, prepare diligently for the best possible outcome in the courtroom, and create a personalized approach for each client.

We know your case is important to you, and we take it just as personally. A court battle over your furry friends can be exhausting, but our custody lawyers can fight for your and your pet.

Contact us for a free consultation and get quality, compassionate legal guidance today.

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