Divorce and Pets: How Does The Division of Animals Work in California?

divoce attorneysWe are frequently asked about pets and the manner in which “custody” is determined in California, especially because most of us treat our animal companions as members of the family.  The truth is, divorce proceedings often bring up the age-old question: “Who gets to keep the dog?”

This is a reasonable question. After all, you can face criminal charges in California if you neglect or abuse your pet, and can even name your furry companion as the beneficiary of your trust. In many ways, it is clear that the law sees pets and animals as more than just inanimate object. Surely it makes more sense to approach the “division” of pets via custody and visitation arrangements rather than a simple “he gets, she gets” arrangement, right?

Wrong. Generally speaking, pets are considered property in California when it comes to divorce proceedings, something that is true across the U.S., and there no special laws involving this particular type of “personal property” have been established, at least not until recently. Thus, this issue is typically approached in a way where the pet is assigned to one party, like any piece of furniture or cookware.

That said, while the law is clear on the status of pets as property and does not formally acknowledge pet custody in the books, California courts are no strangers to these types of matters, and a court-backed arrangement is not entirely out of the question.

Pet Visitation and Custody in California

Courts have recently entertained, and continue to remain flexible, to lawsuits involving pet custody. This type of lawsuit is usually launched by the party who was not granted ownership of the pet during divorce proceedings, and many plaintiffs have successfully argued on behalf of their case and managed to have the terms of ownership modified after the fact. In addition, recent legislation has made it more easy for these types of requests to be reviewed by family law courts in CA.

Contact A Divorce Attorney Today

Pets are often an important part of our families, and even though divorce laws don't exactly focus on pet custody and visitation, that does not mean that all avenues are closed off. Regardless of the circumstances at hand, do not hesitate to contact a skilled family law and divorce attorney.

Know that you can rely on Rubin & Levavi, P.C. Call our offices at (415) 564-2776 to learn more about how we can help.