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Photo of Professionals at McCoy Fatula, APC

What does California family law say about pets in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Oct 6, 2023 | Divorce

You may be one of many people in California who had a dog even before you were married. Perhaps your fur pal naturally became a part of your new family. Then again, maybe you and your new spouse went together to rescue a pup from a shelter or gave your children their first puppy as a gift. Either way, as time passed, your pet likely became a beloved member of your family, and now you’re getting a divorce. So, what will happen to your dog?

Every state has its own laws and guidelines regarding divorce-related issues such as custody or property division proceedings. It’s important to understand the laws of the state in which you have filed for divorce. Regarding the issue of pets, California is one of only several states that make decisions about pets in divorce as part of custody proceedings.

Questions a California family court judge might ask about your pet in a divorce

California Family Code Section 2605 states that courts can award shared or sole ownership of a dog or other pet to both or one spouse (respectively) as part of custody proceedings in a divorce. The following list includes basic questions the judge overseeing your case might want the answers to before deciding:

  • Who paid for the pet?
  • How emotionally attached are the children to the pet?
  • Did one spouse typically spend more time with the pet during marriage than the other?
  • Does the pet seem to prefer the presence of one spouse over the other?

If you have sole custody of your children, for instance, and they have a strong emotional attachment to the pet, it wouldn’t make much sense for the animal to live at their other parent’s house. After considering these and other questions, the court will determine who should have custody of your pet after your divorce.

Negotiating terms of agreement for pet custody

Just as you can for child custody in California, you and your ex may negotiate terms of agreement for ownership and care of your pet without going to court. You might agree to share pet ownership, transferring custody back and forth on a rotating schedule. If you and your ex live a great distance apart, however, this type of arrangement might not be practical in your situation.

If you’re unable to achieve a fair settlement on your own regarding custody of your pet in a divorce, you can ask a California family court judge to intervene and make decisions on your behalf. It is also possible to request modification of a court order that includes terms of agreement for a pet, just as you’re able to do for child custody issues.

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