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California Law Allows Divorcing Couples to Petition for Pet Custody

Assembly Bill 2274, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in September of 2018, changed the way pet custody is handled in California divorce cases. The law gave the courts the authority to decide pet ownership in divorce cases. In accordance with the law, the court can assign sole or joint ownership of the divorcing couple’s pet and take into consideration care of the animal. The pet can be placed in the care of one of the parties in the divorce until the court determines the pet’s final home. The law went into effect January 1, 2019.

Prior to the introduction of the law, judges were required to get creative in reaching agreements regarding pet ownership in divorces where both parties could not bear to part with their pet. In some cases, California judges actually placed the pet between two owners and attempted to determine who the pet liked the best. In other cases, where the couple was debating over ownership of more than one pet, the judge suggested splitting the pets up. Still other cases would result in a form of joint ownership with the pet living with one party for a month/week and the other the following month/week, etc.

The pet custody law was introduced by California Assemblyman Bill Quirk, a Hayward Democrat who said it was time family pets got the status they deserved – as members of the family. Assembly Bill 2605 was added to the Family Code. It reads:

2605. (a) The court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may enter an order, prior to the final determination of ownership of a pet animal, to require a party to care for the pet animal. The existence of an order providing for the care of a pet animal during the course of proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties shall not have any impact on the court’s final determination of ownership of the pet animal.

(b) Notwithstanding any other law, including, but not limited to, Section 2550, the court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may assign sole or joint ownership of a pet animal taking into consideration the care of the pet animal.

(c) For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:

(1) “Care” includes, but is not limited to, the prevention of acts of harm or cruelty, as described in Section 597 of the Penal Code, and the provision of food, water, veterinary care, and safe and protected shelter.

(2) “Pet animal” means any animal that is community property and kept as a household pet.

If you have questions about how to seek custody of your pet in a California divorce, the experienced divorce and family law attorneys at The Maggio Law Firm can help you. Get in touch as soon as possible so we can assist you in preparing your custody case and manage negotiations on your behalf.

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