Pets and Divorce in the State of California

In recent years, pets have increasingly have been a point of contention in divorces. The most common type of pet involved in divorce and separation disputes is a dog, although cats and other pets are involved in some cases, as well. While pets often traditionally were given to whichever spouse was awarded custody of the children, this trend has changed in recent years. In some cases, people even include a “pet clause” in their prenuptial agreements, so that there can be no dispute as to ownership of the pet upon divorce.

Under the law, pets technically are items of personal property, and are therefore distributed in a divorce just as any other item of personal property. Unlike other items of personal property, however, a court may take certain factors into consideration in making a decision about whom should have possession of a pet. For instance, the court might consider which spouse primarily takes care of the pet, in terms of feeding, watering, taking it to the veterinarian, and walking it as needed. Other relevant factors might include the couple’s respective living arrangements and ability to care for an animal in light of their work schedules.

Some couples choose to “share custody” of their pet when they split up or divorce. In these cases, the couple actually may rotate custody of the pet on a set schedule. Typically, these arrangements are not ordered by a judge; rather, they are the result of an agreement reached by the parties. In most cases, it is preferable that the parties to work together in order to develop a plan that is truly in a pet’s best interest. Since California law, has no provision for a “best interest” standard for pets, the court ultimately may issue a decision about the pet that is not the best for the pet in the long run.

At the Law Offices of Vincent W. Davis & Associates, we know how emotional it can be for an individual in the midst of a divorce. Facing the possibility of losing one’s pet can make the divorce all the more traumatic. Contact our office today, schedule a consultation with an experienced California divorce lawyer, and learn how we can assist you with your divorce case.