Can You Mediate Custody Of Your Pet?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce attorneys; The Maggio Law FirmDivorce mediation is typically the process of amicably reaching a settlement to end your marriage, but you are unsure what to do about your furry friend. Under California law, pets are typically classified as personal property and there are no explicit pet custody laws like there are laws for children. If one party gets exclusive care to the pet, the other party may not be permitted to visit the pet. Pets used to classified under the same category as other pieces of personal property, but the laws have changed for the better recently.

Ownership rather than custody

There exists no provisions for pet custody in California unless the divorcing couple come to an agreement. A pet will be looked as a non-dividable piece of property. The party who does not receive exclusive care to the pet may not have any legal recourse. The best thing to do in such cases is to develop a pre-nup before marriage stating how pets would be divided.

What if I bought the pet before marriage?

In cases wherein one party purchased or adopted a pet before marriage, he or she is more likely to be granted full ownership of the pet by court as long as he or she holds no reasonable threat to the well-being of the pet. In such cases, the other party may not have any legal recourse apart from trying to prove that it is in the pet’s best interests to stay with him or her. Once again, a pre-nup would solve most of these problems without heading into any messy legal areas.

Can custody be established?

Although a court in California rarely establish or enforce pet custody, a couple can do so under their Marital Settlement Agreement. Through this, you can establish a custody and visitation schedule for your pet. The negotiation process and the terms of the settlement will often bind the parties to the agreement. This can be easily set up through your mediation process without needing to involve a court. A family court judge will sign off on the agreement as long as both of you are able to agree to it.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

What Happens to Pets in a Divorce?

Posted by: Gerald A. Maggio, Esq.

Orange County divorce attorneys; The Maggio Law Firm, Inc.According to research, approximately 50 percent of the marriages in the United States end up in divorce. Further, 62 percent of the U.S. households have a minimum of one pet. This means that a lot of the partners getting divorced would definitely be pet owners. Now the question arises: who decides the fate of your furry friend in a divorce situation?

Divorce attorneys inform that when one spouse has a strong emotional connection with the pet, the other may try and exploit this attachment/relationship. Since your partner is aware of your fondness for the animal, he/she might threaten to file for ownership just to get you to give up on something that has significant financial worth.

When the matter relating to the custody of the pet is presented in front of the court, the following questions may be addressed in order to arrive at a decision:

  • Who takes responsibility of the daily needs of the animal including food, walks, exercise, shelter, supervision, grooming, etc.?
  • Which partner has better financial ability to support the needs of the pet?
  • Who runs the pet to a vet in case of illness or injury?

Handling of pets in a divorce

While you may think of your cat or dog as a family member, the law simply treats them as personal property, just like furniture and paintings. Since in the legal world, your pet is like personal property, you may utilize a prenuptial agreement for ensuring that it stays with you, irrespective of whether you continue to remain in the marriage or get divorced in the future.

But if you do not have a prenuptial agreement, it might be beneficial to include certain pet provisions in your postnuptial agreement.

Who has a life more suited to owning a pet?

Sometimes, one partner is in a job that requires long hours of work or extensive traveling, and the other has work-from-home employment setup or a more stable schedule. In such a case, the partner with the comparatively predicable and less burdensome job situation could use this point in his/her favor. Their lifestyle is definitely more appropriate when it comes to taking care of a pet. The animal would rarely be left alone or unattended and would be living in a healthier and happier environment complete with daily interaction.

If the spouses are sharing joint custody of the children, they may even consider having the pet over with the kids for that specific period of time.

Getting divorced in California can be complicated.  Download our free eBook, 18 Important Things to Know About California Divorce to educate yourself on the process.  

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