Divorce Law Focuses on Pet Custody

With a divorce, we have to make a few difficult decisions with our future spouse regarding the division of assets, property, and child custody. However, there are a few considerations that the courts have not historically paid attention to – including pets. Under a 2019 law, you may need to contact a San Jose divorce lawyer in order to retain custody of your shared pets.

In the past, the courts have treated pets as community property that the divorcing couple can choose to divide along with the rest of their material objects. In 2019, the California divorce court have made changes to this precedent, treating pets more like children than possessions.

What Does This New Law Say?

Assembly Bill 2274 went into effect on January 1st, 2019, and has swiftly changed the way that courts take pets into consideration during divorce proceedings. When you bring a furry friend into the courtroom, the court will decide how to award custody similar to children. Since you and your former spouse likely have a strong attachment to the animal, this law has the potential for treating animals in a more humane manner.

This bill gives the court greater discretion over who receives sole custody of the animal and how to decide instances of joint custody. Under California law, the court still sees the animal as community property, but it will consider who will take better care of it after the divorce – similar to child custody agreements.

The court will examine how protected and well-cared for the animal will be with each of you. It may look at you and your spouse’s financial and home situations. California state law defines care of animal by the following criteria.

  • Providing the pet with food and water
  • Having an adequate shelter for the pet
  • Taking the pet to the veterinarian when necessary

Taking Care of Your Animal Before the Courtroom

You may wonder who will take care of your pet before your divorce begins – and AB 2274 has an answer for that. Either you or your former spouse can file for an order that gives you the right to take care of the animal before the court makes its custody decision.

The court will not give whoever files and receives this order special preference in court – it will not hurt or help you either way. The purpose of this order is to prevent fighting between you and your spouse before the court proceedings.

What Does This Mean for You?

If you entered into a divorce proceeding after January 1st, 2019, AB 2274 applies to your divorce arrangements. It will not impact how you divide your assets or other areas of the divorce – it only affects any pets you and your former spouse may have together.

We have very special connections to animals. Prior to this bill, California state law provided fewer protections for pet owners, leading to significant emotional trauma. Many people feel as if losing an animal is the same as losing a child, which is why this new bill is valuable to ensuring that court takes the interests of pet owners into special consideration during a divorce.

Do You Need a California Divorce Attorney for Pets?

While AB 2274 may extend protections to pet owners during a divorce, you will still need a divorce attorney to protect your best interests. Your spouse will likely fight tenaciously for his or her right to have sole custody over the pet – possibly hiring a strong divorce attorney to advocate on his or her behalf.

You will require a San Jose family law attorney to do the same. Your attorney will know how to navigate difficult divorce negotiations and guide you through the legal process. In addition, he or she will know how to enter California divorce court and can help you prepare for your trial.

If you are filing for divorce in California and want a chance at full custody of your furry friend, this new precedent can work in your favor. However, you will need to successfully convince the court that you deserve full custody – and you need a lawyer on your side to help. Contact a California divorce attorney as soon as possible to discuss your divorce options.