How Will This New California Divorce Law Affect Your Family Pets?

Photo of a cat caught between it's owners

Pets are children, siblings, best friends and family members. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), pet owners spent $69.51 billion on their family pets in 2017. This amount has risen each year since 1994 and is expected to rise by nearly three billion dollars in 2018.

When it comes to divorce, many people view the potential of losing ownership of their pets as similarly as losing custody of their children. Unfortunately, existing law does not see pets in the same way. Generally, the law treats family pets comparable to inanimate objects during a divorce, such as a couch, painting or TV. Family pets are considered community property, or property acquired by a married person or married couple while living together.

Current laws can cause major complications and fighting among parties during a difficult time. In the event of divorce, the party who has their name on the adoption certificate or sales paperwork usually gets ownership. A new bill, Assembly Bill 2274, was recently signed by the governor of California and will change how family pets are viewed.

AB 2274 was written with the mindset that family pets are family members. Though pets will continue to be termed as community property, they will be given more consideration by the court at the request of one or both parties.

There are two parts to AB 2274. First, during divorce proceedings, the court may require one of the parties to care for the family pet until the divorce is finalized and the judge has made a final determination of pet ownership. According to the bill, care will include, but is not limited to providing the pet protection, food and water, veterinary care and safe shelter. If the court does order one party to care for the family pet during the divorce proceedings, the order will not affect the final determination of pet ownership.

Furthermore, at final determination, a judge may assign sole or joint ownership of the family pet. Rather than basing the decision on whoever’s name is on the pet’s adoption certificate or sales receipt, the judge may consider the pet’s well-being instead. In making this decision, the judge may weigh such considerations as which party takes care of the pet, provides for the pet and spends the most time with the pet.

This new law takes effect on January 1, 2019. You can read the full bill here.

Need a San Diego Divorce Attorney?

If you have questions about how this new law could affect your divorce case, you should speak with an experienced, California divorce attorney. Divorce Attorneys-San Diego represents clients in every step of the divorce process. Call us at (619) 269-8000 or contact us online to schedule a consultation. Don’t forget to ask about our 10-percent discount program!

Follow our Facebook page for updates on future blogs!