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Palm Springs Law Blog

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

What Happens to My Companion Animal After I Divorce?

When a marriage breaks down it can be really difficult. Divorces are commonly messy. Things can get even more contentious when there are children involved. Figuring out child custody can be difficult for everyone involved. But what happens when the custody you’re battling over is a companion animal?

It can be tough to figure out the custody of companion animals because they have historically been considered as property rather than family members by family courts. But companion animal lovers have rejoiced about a new law that went into effect on January 1, 2019, as it has changed the way in which family law courts deal with the custody of companion animals.

New Law, New Outlook

Prior to the new law, the custody (or sharing) of the companion animal was left up to the judge. The judge would often look at who purchased the companion animal or spent money on the adoption fees and would grant that individual with the custody of the companion animal.

Additionally, judges have sometimes decided to split companion animals up between the parties in homes where there is more than one. That way each person has at least one companion animal. Other times, judges will ask that the divorcing couple comes to an agreement on their own about visitation.

Assemblyman Bill Quirk identified the issue, leading him to the introduction of Assembly Bill 2274 that modified Family Code Section 2605. “There is nothing in statute directing judges to treat a pet differently from any other type of property we own,” said Quirk. “I know that owners view their pets as more than just property. They are part of our family, and their care needs to be a consideration during divorce proceedings.”

How Does the Law Treat Companion Animal Custody?

Under the new law, courts are able to assign either sole or joint ownership of a shared (community property) companion animal. Judges now look at many of the same factors that are considered in child custody cases, the foremost of which is what is in the best interest of the companion animal. The judge will look at who is in a better position to care for the companion animal and fulfill its needs.

The new law allows courts and families to take greater control of what will happen to companion animals when couples go through a divorce. The law also helps to ensure the greater safety and wellbeing of the companion animal by looking at what is in its best interest.

Heritage Legal, PC Helps Those in California Who Are Going Through Divorce and/or Custody Issues

Companion animals are no longer looked at as property, but rather as members of the family who should be treated as such. At Heritage Legal, PC, we understand the importance of protecting what is in your best interest as well as the best interest of your family. That’s why we will help you with your divorce and custody issues. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation, contact us today!


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