Naturally enough a pet is often considered another family member. Pets are pampered and loved, they are given the things they need and want, and the household wouldn’t be the same without them.  But what happens to the pet when a couple divorces?

The Judge Can Decide on Pet Custody Based on the Best Interest of the Pet

There was a time not so long ago when pets were treated like another asset such as a car or furniture. Neither spouse had any better claim to the pet than the other one. The pet, whether dog, cat, ferret, bird, or any other animal was awarded to one party as property with no regard to the best interest of the pet.

Fortunately, in 2019, California changed the law. The pet is still considered as property, but the court “may assign sole or joint ownership of a pet animal taking into consideration the care of the pet animal.” This has been interpreted as allowing the court the power to award “ownership,” based on the best interest of the pet.

A pet is defined as “any animal that is community property and kept as a household pet.” A survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conducted in 2014 found that most pet custody disputes involved dogs, followed by cats, and then horses. There was a miscellaneous category which included a turtle, an iguana, and a python.

In making the custody determination, the court will consider what is in the best interest of the pet such as:

  • Who bought the pet?
  • Who walks the dog?
  • Who plays with the cat?
  • Who feeds the pet?
  • Who takes the pet to the vet?
  • Who pays for the food?
  • Who pays for the vet?
  • Any other relevant information presented by either spouse.

Contact Kim Mediation and Law Center

For help in resolving your dispute over ownership and custody of your beloved pet, or for help with any issue in your divorce, call or contact us at Kim Mediation and Law Center where we help you have a peaceful divorce by resolving your issues between yourselves with the help of mediation or collaborative divorce. Call or contact us for a free case evaluation.