Who Gets Pet Custody in a Divorce?

Owning a pet is extremely popular these days. In California, around 52.9% of people own a pet. Cats, dogs, rodents, and birds are among the most popular types of pets. However, what people rarely consider is what happens to these animals when people divorce.

When parents divorce, they usually must decide how custody will work with their children, and if they can’t agree at all, the court will make that determination for them. Likewise, the court will always make the decision in the best interests of the child. Pets, however, aren’t children. Legally, they are still regarded as property, which used to put the decision of who gets the dog or cat under property division. In previous years, they have been treated as such without regards to their emotional or physical wellbeing.

However, there is a growing tendency among judges to decide on the ownership of a companion animal based on the best interests of the pet. In California, pets are now being regarded as the equivalent of a child.

California Family Code § 6320 protects domestic animals if there is a reason to believe one of the parties may cause harm to the pet. The introduction of this law alone proves pets are getting more recognition for their rights.

If you’re facing a divorce and custody becomes an issue, you either need to agree on a shared custody arrangement on your own or you can ask the court to make the decision for you. Family court judges will sign off on most divorce settlements a couple can agree on, and if you’ve already decided on pet custody, it should be included when you initially file.

Likewise, if your pet is particularly attached to one of your children or vice versa, it’s best to keep the child and the pet in the same household. Or, if the pet belonged to one spouse before marriage, the pet should be in the original owner’s custody.

Talk to one of our skilled Rancho Cucamonga divorce attorneys about your case if you need assistance in negotiating the terms of your divorce with your spouse. Chung & Ignacio, LLP is committed to helping each client reach his or her legal goals to the best of our ability. Our lawyers have spent years advocating for clients throughout Southern California. Let us see what we can do for you and your family.

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