Historically, the California courts have treated pets like property when people divorce. One person got the pet, and the other had to grieve their marriage and the loss of their companion animal. However, that changed a few years ago when state lawmakers adopted the pet custody law now on the books.
If you find yourself considering divorce and you share a pet that you love with your spouse, this new law could help you protect that relationship with your companion animal while ending the unhappy relationship with your spouse.
The courts now have the authority to order shared pet custody
When the courts treated pets as property, all they could do was assign the animal to one person and use its estimated market value to justify how they awarded other assets. These days, California family law judges can hear from both spouses and make a decision that they think would be best for the pet.
Both shared pet custody and one spouse having full responsibility for the animal are possible outcomes. For example, if both spouses want custody of the pet, but one of them is an airline pilot who is only home seven days a month, the judge will likely factor that into how they split pet custody.
If you litigate pet custody, it can increase the duration and overall cost of your divorce. You can also potentially negotiate a shared custody arrangement for your pet with your ex outside of court. Knowing how California handles pets and other major factors in a contested divorce can help you feel more prepared when you decide to file.