For many families, pets are considered integral members. When spouses divorce, determining who gets custody of pets can become contentious.

California has recently passed a law that defines the authority judges have to decide when they determine who will keep the family pet. The law provides that judge will be able to review certain factors in making this decision and that the process will be similar to the way child custody matters are handled.

While the new law still treats pets as community property, a court will determine pet custody by weighing such factors such as which spouse feeds the pet, who brings the pet to the veterinarian, who takes the pet on walks, and who protects them. The new law will go into effect on January 1, 2019.

Previously, courts often treated a family pet as property subject to equitable division. Thus, a judge might consider the value of the pet in relation to how other community property has been divided. Other judges would try to discern which spouse the pet liked best.

This has led to awkward situations. For example, in one case, a woman asserted that the pet was a gift from her husband, and the husband claimed that he was the primary caregiver to the dog.

Other couples opted to negotiate pet custody out of court since there was not a lot of guidance as to how a court would treat a pet from case to case. These solutions sometimes included alternating custody every week or month or splitting up the family pets if there was more than one.

While it is still the case that divorcing spouses can always agree to any terms they choose outside of court, this law will make pet custody more predictable if the issue needs to be decided by a judge.

Contact a San Jose, CA Pet Custody Lawyer

If you are going through a divorce, you should seek legal counsel. If you believe pet custody will be an issue in your case, you will want to fully use this new law to your advantage. Because the law is new, you may have a wider variety of arguments you can make to your benefit. This is where an accomplished San Jose, CA divorce attorney can help.

Our experienced attorney will be able to identify the ways California law could benefit you and make those arguments in negotiations and in court. Call our firm today at 408-288-5592. We offer free consultations.


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