When California couples get married, they typically have plans and goals for their future. Some people dream of having many children and living in the country. Others want to build successful businesses and keep pets rather than have children; then there are those who combine both ideas. Regardless of lifestyle, if divorce occurs at some point, disputes regarding the custody of children and/or pets may be difficult to resolve if one spouse refuses to compromise.

In the past, a dog or cat was typically treated as property subject to division rather than something of persona (like a child) that needs to be assigned custodial care. However, in recent times, animal advocates have begun promoting the idea that it’s important to consider the best interests of a pet when determining who will care for it after divorce. Courts have begun to issue rulings concerning visitation of pets and have even ordered alimony payments to help with pet care.

One couple that battled it out in a highly contentious divorce initially agreed to joint custody of their pet. However, they wound up back in court, fighting for nearly two years until one of them obtained sole custody of the dog. The story made the news, and videos were published of the dog spending time with each party, as an animal behaviorist tried to show that the pet was better off with one of the owners rather than both.

Dogs and cats are not the only species of animals that become central figures in divorce disputes. In fact, one recorded account involved a 130-pound turtle! Alaska was the first state to enact pet-custody laws. Any pet owner in California in need of assistance regarding similar issues may seek support from a family law attorney.

Source: The New York Times, “When Couples Divorce, Who Gets to Keep the Dog? (Or Cat.)“, Christopher Mele, March 23, 2017