For many families, pets are members of the family, present in holiday cards and cared for as faithful companions. On the other hand, California Family Law Courts have historically viewed pets as personal property and assigned ownership like any other item during a divorce or separation. If a pet was acquired during the marriage, the pet was generally characterized as community property. But, starting this year (January 1, 2019), California Family Law Courts will have a new statute, Family Code Section 2605, which allows Judges to “assign sole or joint ownership” of a “community property” pet, by taking into consideration the care for the pet. Pets can also be placed in the temporary care of one of the parties in a divorce or separation before the final home of the pet is determined.
In determining pet custody or ownership, the Court may consider whether a spouse knows the brand of pet food the animal eats, the name of the pet’s veterinarian, the pet’s medical needs, etc. Can anyone really argue that pets don’t have emotions and feelings? The family dog usually has a “favorite,” even if that is the person who feeds it. Some might argue this new law raises the status of pets to something just below a human child. However, advocates say it raises the status of pets to where they belong—family members. Undoubtedly, these new changes will add another dimension to divorce in California.
If you’re considering divorce and need help creating a pet custody agreement or have other family law questions, contact The Reape-Rickett Law Firm today at 888-851-1611 or visit DivorceDigest.com.