McCoy Fatula, APCMcCoy
Located in Roseville, CA

Consider custody of pets in divorce

Division of property is a common topic of discussion when a couple's marriage comes to an end in California or anywhere around the nation. Determining who gets the house and dividing assets in a bank account are issues one typically thinks about in a divorce. Custody issues are also prevalent if there are children from the marriage. However, many couples are now facing a dilemma in their divorce process: who gets the pets?

In a few states, family law rules determines custody of a pet. However, for most states in the country, pets are considered to be personal property. This is the case in California. Unless there is proof of harm or abuse to a pet, the animals would be viewed as property.

Experts recommend having a discussion with a spouse about where the pet will live. If there is agreement between the two parties, make sure to document the decision and have it notarized. This document could be presented in court along with other divorce papers. This so-called "petnuptial" does not have to be prepared by professionals. Its sole purpose is to acknowledge that the parties agree where the pet should live.

If there is a disagreement about the custody of the pet, it would be wise to seek mediation. If possible, decisions regarding custody, financial obligations, veterinary care and visitation will be determined. If mediation is not successful, the issues will have to be decided in court. Then, more scrutiny will be given to which spouse provided more care to the pet.

There are a number of issues to address in any divorce, whether or not a couple has pets. To help navigate through the complex issues, it would be helpful to seek the guidance of a California divorce lawyer. An experienced attorney will work to achieve a successful outcome in the case for a client.

Source:, "Laws for Paws: Make sure you have custody of your pet in case of divorce", Patti Lawson, Oct. 1, 2017

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