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How Pet Custody Works During Divorce in California

Posted by Michael Geller | May 01, 2022 | 0 Comments

For many people, their pet is a member of the family on par with a child. This is why it is fairly common for spouses to engage in heated disagreements when attempting to negotiate “pet custody.” In California, the landscape for these discussions was changed dramatically in 2019 when the state legislature passed, and the Governor signed, a new law directly impacting pet custody.

Overview of California's Innovative Pet Custody Law AB2274

In 2019, a law was enacted in California that modified the way pet custody is handled in divorce cases. The new law provides judges with the authority to consider the care and the best interest of the pet (or companion animal) when making decisions in separation or divorce matters, according to the text of the statute.

The notion of determining pet custody may seem trivial to some, but it is worth highlighting how innovative and groundbreaking this new law is for pet owners. How so? Well, it means California is one of the first states in the country to provide courts with specific guidance on how to approach and decide issues related to the custody of pets. As a result, there is now a clear demarcation between pets and other types of property that must be divided between spouses during s divorce.

New Law Establishes Pets are No Longer Simply Physical Property

Prior to the enactment of the 2019 law, California courts typically viewed pets as akin to other forms of physical property, such as a piece of furniture, a piece of jewelry, an automobile, etc. As a result, when it came to determining the custody of the pet, judges would usually base their decision on which spouse purchased or adopted the animal. This was not a formal codified legal standard. Rather, it was the product of common law since judges enjoyed broad discretion in determining where a pet would be best placed or in arranging visitation schedules. That changed in 2019 when the state legislature created a new statutory standard to address pet custody issues.

Straightforward Standard that Focuses on the Best Interests of the Pet

With the passage of the 2019 law, California judges now have much clearer direction on how to resolve pet custody disputes between spouses during a divorce. This is going to be extremely helpful for many judges, especially when attempting to resolve a pet custody dispute that could help expediate the finalization of a divorce proceeding. In addition, the new law allows judges to create shared custody agreements and enter orders that require one party to care for a pet prior to final ownership determination.

Have Questions About Pet Custody in California During a Divorce? Contact The Geller Firm Today

If you are concerned about what may happen to your pet during a divorce, take action and contact The Geller Firm today.  Our team of divorce attorneys are here to help and understand the complexities of California family law. We are available for virtual and in-person consultations. Our law firm serves all nine San Francisco Bay Area counties. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

About the Author

Michael Geller

Michael Geller grew up in San Francisco, CA. He attended the University of Southern California for his undergraduate studies, the City University of New York for his medical training, and Santa Clara University School of Law for his legal education.


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