What Happens to Pets in a North County Divorce?

Pierre Domercq Divorce

We are often asked “what happens to our pets” in a Carlsbad or North County divorce? The short answer is there are no California family laws governing the “custody” of a pet. California does not legally give a pet the same standing as they do children in divorce, and therefore child custody and support concepts are not applied to pets.
The reality is we love and cherish our pets, and they are very much a member of the family. It is usually best for the “parents” to work out a solution that fits the unique rhythms of their family life and the realities that will exist after the divorce is completed.
Consideration should be given to the children who will have to move between households after the divorce. In some cases pets naturally tend to associate more firmly with one of the parties, and this reality offers a natural solution. In other cases it may be necessary to consider sharing the custody of the pet much like you would a child.
It is not unusual for parties to work out a more informal “shared parenting plan” for their pet, or agree that the “pets will follow the children” as they move between homes. Agreements on these issues can be quite creative.
Legally, the perspective is much “colder” to consider. The law in California considers a pet more like community property issues. When was the pet acquired and what funds were used for the purchase? There is no law to guide the judge, so while there may be no evidentiary path our North County Judges may consider information or testimony relating to whom the pet is more attached to if the matter is formally contested.
The “testimony” in these cases is simply left to the Judge’s consideration. By law the pet is considered as community property, and community property is to be divided equally. The experienced divorce and family law attorneys at Burke & Domercq understand the unique bonds we share with our pets. While protecting our client’s goals and objectives, we work to find a positive solution that is in the best interests of the pet as well.