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What happens to your pet when you divorce?

On Behalf of | Apr 6, 2022 | Divorce |

Your dog is an important part of your family. They may get presents under the Christmas tree and their own birthday party every year. You may include them in every family photo.

The idea of losing your beloved pet could be a major deterrent from filing for divorce even if you are miserable in your marriage. The good news for those considering divorce in California is that state lawmakers have addressed what has historically been a legal gray area in much of the country. Pet owners in California can expect more nuance from the family courts than people in much of the United States.

What does California law say?

In most states, pets like dogs and cats are considered property in divorce. They have a fixed financial value and belong to someone. Their needs or well-being will not factor into any decisions made by the family courts in the divorce. Typically, this means that litigated divorces result in one spouse receiving the pet and the other losing it.

In California, shared pet custody is an option when a couple divorces. If it will allow for a better quality of life for the animal, a judge may agree to a shared pet care arrangement. Couples can request such an outcome in a litigated divorce or propose it in their uncontested divorce property settlement paperwork.

The relatively unique and new California approach to pets in a divorce allows a judge to consider what is best for the animal and also the emotional value the pet has for the divorcing couple. Learning more about property division rules in California divorces will help take the fear out of filing.