We are often asked “what happens to our pets in a North County divorce court?” Recent changes in California family law provide some new answers for how beloved pets are managed during a modern divorce proceeding.
While there are no specific laws governing the “custody” of a pet, California law now views your beloved family pets as an important part of the process. Judges have wide discretion regarding what is in the best interests of the pet itself, as well as the former spouses and their children.
This is not to say California will legally give a pet the same standing as they do children in divorce.
However, the reality is we love and cherish our pets and they are very much a member of the family. We typically give a lot of thought to what happens to our pets in a North County divorce. It is usually best for the former spouses 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 visiting schedule” 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 technically a bit less warm and fuzzy. The law in California still considers a pet in the same light as community property issues.
However, the Judge will consider many facts before rendering a decision on the disposition of a pet when the parties cannot come to an agreement. The Judge will consider facts such as who typically feeds or takes the pet for walks, or who usually purchases food and toys. The Judge will also evaluate when the pet was acquired and what funds were used for the purchase?
The “testimony” in these cases is simply left to the Judge’s consideration. By law a pet is still technically 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. If you are asking yourself “what happens to our pets in a North County divorce case?” we invite you to contact us or call 760-712-3741 to schedule an appointment. We can help you to negotiate an agreement which will work for all parties.