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Law in California Permits Pet Custody Cases


Beginning on January 1, 2019, California issued a law allowing couples to determine custody of their pets rather than treat them as marital property. This means a judge can make decisions concerning pet ownership based on what would be in the animal’s best interests.

Before the Pet Custody Law

Prior to the 2019 law, California determined pet ownership based on the same factors used to separate all other assets and property. For example, if one party owned the animal prior to the marriage, the animal would usually go with the person who brought it into the marriage. If an animal was acquired during the marriage, the court would usually award it to whoever had more resources to care for it.

The New Pet Custody Law

Currently, the court can award sole or joint custody of an animal to a divorcing couple. This means the court may determine custody based on:

  • Who cares for the animal daily
  • Who financially provides for the animal
  • Who spends more time with the animal
  • Who has more time and resources to spend on the animal
  • Who has a stronger emotional investment in the animal
  • Who has primary custody of any minor children

Like child custody cases, a judge may decide to grant joint custody of an animal to both parties. This means that either the judge or the parties will need to create an animal custody schedule that works best with their personal calendars. For example, the parties could choose to have custody of the pet on a weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly basis.

If a couple has a particular idea on how they would like to divide custody of their pet, it is best to consult with a an attorney who can help you create your plan. Doing so will allow you and the other party to establish a pet custody arrangement you would prefer rather than leaving the decision to the judge.

Providing Sound Legal Guidance

At Gille Kaye Law Group, PC, we understand the importance of pets in a family structure. Our attorneys can help you effectively establish a pet custody arrangement that will benefit all parties involved.

Fill out our online contact form or call us at (626) 340-0955 to get started.

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