When you’re going through a divorce, you need to think about how you will handle all property division, as we well your children. But where do pets fit into the equation? For most couples, pets are considered family. Pets are especially common in households of the newest generations of married couple. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, millennials and Generation Xers spend more time with their pets than older generations.
So, the question becomes what happens to pets when a couple files for divorce? The answer varies from one state to another depending on property division laws since pets are technically considered property under the law. A new California law, however, changes that.
Are Pets Family or Property?
California courts have previously considered pets to be property when it comes to divorce proceedings. California is a community property state, which means that all property is divided evenly at divorce unless decided differently by the divorcing couple. Since the courts previously considered pets as property, it meant that it would simply go to one spouse as if it were a piece of property.
After passing the new pet custody law, California courts no longer use property division laws to determine pet ownership. Instead, at divorce, pets are treated more like children. Judges will listen to both spouses and determine pet custody based on the best interests of the pet. This is a big step towards animal welfare because judges have discretion in determining who will best take care of the bet.
Details of Assembly Bill 2274
Assembly Bill 2274, which was signed into law by the governor in September 2018, authorizes the courts to assign sole or joint ownership of a community property pet in consideration of the level of care the animal would receive. The judge will consider various factors when determining appropriate pet custody, such as:
- Who took primary care of the pet
- Who purchased or adopted the pet
- Who paid for veterinary bills
- Who the pet is emotionally attached to
- Where the pet might prefer to live
- What is best for the pet
This new California law applies only to pets which are considered community property. A pet is considered community property if it was kept as household pets. If one spouse came into the marriage owning the pet, he or she will keep that pet as their separate property.
Call an Experienced Central Valley Divorce Attorney
If you are involved in a divorce proceeding, planning to file for divorce, or are dealing specifically dealing with child support issues, it is in your best interest to consult with an experienced family law attorney to help you learn your legal rights and options with respect to the division of your assets.
For more information or to schedule a complimentary consultation with Central Valley family law attorney Gurjit Srai, please call (209) 323-5558 or (559) 449-1447, or complete our online form.