Can I Seek Custody of My Pet During a California Divorce?
In January 2019, a new family went into effect that altered the way courts considered the family pet during Orange County, California divorce. Previously, California considered pets property. When a coupled divorced, each of them was entitled to half the value of the “pet.” In September 2018, the governor signed AB 2274 into law. Under the new law, either party in dissolution or legal separation proceedings can request that the judge assign sole or joint ownership of a pet. When assigning sole or joint ownership, the judge considers the animal’s care. The new law is found in Family Code Section 2605. It states:
“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.
Democratic assemblyman Bill Quirk authored the law. When asked, he stated that it was nonsensical to treat a pet as property. In the past, judges have even resolved the discussion of a family pet during divorce by telling divorcing couples they can sell the pet and split the money.
Divorcing parties can now request that the judge consider various factors related to the animal’s care (i.e., who walks the animal, feeds them, plays with them, etc.) The judge considers all these factors before deciding who the pet should live with post-divorce. California was the first state in the United States to have this type of pet custody law in place.
If you need to file for divorce in Orange County, California, and are worried about pet custody, please don’t hesitate to contact one of the experienced custody and divorce attorneys at The Maggio Law Firm today.
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