Southern California Family Law Blog

Divorce cases are often messy battles where bitterness and anger becomes a motivating force for the parties involved. Divorcing couples often find it difficult to maintain civility when child custody, spousal support and valued possessions are being split up.

Determining custody of pets can be especially difficult because family law courts have treated what many people consider beloved family members as possessions. However, a new law that went into effect on January 1, 2019 will change the way family law courts handle custody of pets.

How Family Law Courts Treat Pets

Up until 2019, the family law courts have essentially left it up to a judge to determine how divorcing parties split a shared pet. In most cases, the court would attempt to identify the person who paid for the pet’s adoption or purchase fees, and that person would be considered the pet’s owner.

Family law judges have also gotten creative in terms of pet custody after divorce. Some have split multiple pets up between the two parties so that each is left with custody of one or more of the pets. In other cases, judges have encouraged divorcing parties to reach agreements on visitation on their own.

“There is nothing in statute directing judges to treat a pet differently from any other type of property we own,” Assemblyman Bill Quirk said.. “I know that owners view their pets as more than just property. They are part of our family, and their care needs to be a consideration during divorce proceedings.”

That is why Quirk introduced Assembly Bill 2274, which added Section 2605 to the Family Code effective January 1, 2019. So, what exactly does this new law do in terms of determining pet custody?

What Happens to My Pet After a Divorce?

Under Family Code Section 2605, courts can assign sole or joint ownership of a community property pet. Like in cases of child custody, family court judges must take into consideration the best interests of the pet. That means the judge will consider custody of the pet based on which party is better suited to fulfill the pet’s needs.

During a divorce involving a pet, family law judges will determine temporary custody of the pet before a final decision is made. Shared custody agreements are also an option if it is determined that spending time with both parties is in the best interest of the pet.

The implementation of AB 2274 gives courts and families more control over what happens to pets after a divorce. By urging the courts to consider the care and well-being of animals, it also ensures the health and safety of pets.

Contact a Skilled Family Law Attorney Today

Divorce battles can be difficult, and it can be even more complicated when the divorcing parties have a shared pet or multiple pets. That is why you should not hesitate to contact an experienced family law attorney immediately if you are going through a divorce. A skilled family lawyer will be able to guide you through the legal process and help you obtain a favorable outcome in your case.

Contact our law firm today at (888) 749-7428 if you or someone you know needs the help of an experienced family law attorney. We will be there when you call.

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