There are millions of dog and cat owners in California and throughout the nation who view their pets as members of the family. A pet owned by a married couple is likely viewed as belonging equally to each spouse. While this may be how the couple feels, certain courts may not view pets the same way when property division issues are addressed during a divorce.
Most states in the country consider pets to be property that could be sold. When a marriage ends, discussions about who gets what are prevalent. Since most pets are viewed as part of the family, custody conflicts are likely to arise.
Currently, Alaska and Illinois have laws that view pets more like children in divorce proceedings. For the other 48 states, experts suggest that couples try to reach an agreement about how custody of the pet will be handled. When both spouses want to take care of the pet, a schedule should be developed to reflect this. If such an agreement has not been made, a judge would determine custody for the pet.
Some court actions regarding pets have included taking a dog to the park along with both owners, then seeing which one the pet ran to first. In another situation, things were so contentious the judge was planning to rule that the family pet be sold and the money split between the spouses. However, a custody arrangement was reached before this action was taken. In most of these situations, the best interest of the pet is not considered.
Until more states have laws regarding pets in divorce property division situations, couples may want to add provisions for their animals in a marital agreement. A California divorce attorney can help couples develop agreements that include how their pets would be treated in a divorce. A knowledgeable lawyer can also provide guidance regarding other property division questions in divorce proceedings.