Pet Custody Laws and Divorce

Pet Custody LawsPet custody laws in a California divorce. Fido, the family dog, in the eyes of the law is considered property to be distributed like any other property during a divorce proceeding. However, divorce courts are now beginning to recognize that Charlie, the family dog is no longer “just” property. Unlike the family couch or chair, the pet is loved and cherished by members of the family because it actually is a member of the family. See Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALF).

Who Gets Pet Custody and Who Gets Pet Visitation?

In order to find the best home for Charlie, the courts are looking at which party has provided the most care and companionship for the pet. They are looking at who has taken care of Charlie’s basic daily needs with regard to food, shelter, exercise, grooming, etc., and who takes Charlie to the vet and which party sees to his training.

Once the decision is made as to who will have custody of Charlie, the parties will have to decide other issues such as pet visitation. The decision of who gets custody of the family pet, and what type of visitation schedule can be expected is almost as contentious as child custody and child visitation.

It is estimated that in about 10% of divorces, the couples end up fighting over their dogs and cats. In fact, even the custody of such exotic pets such as iguanas, pythons, African grey parrots and giant turtles can become an issue, although not as often as the family dog or cat.

What may be happening in these cases is that couples who forgo having children, direct their maternal and paternal instinct onto their pets. The pets become substitute children. In cases where the couples do have children, the pet will normally go with the parent who has physical custody of the child.

Who Pays for Pet Support?

Once the decision is made as to who gets custody of Charlie, there may be another issue facing divorcing couples with pets, and that is finances. Taking care of a pet can be an expensive prospect. The Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine estimates that on average, the cost of taking care of a small to medium size dog for the first year of its life can be from $2,674 to $2,889, and the cost of caring for a large dog, is in the neighborhood of $3,239.

Divorcing couples sometimes have unequal earning power. The party who earns the most may end up paying “dog” or “cat” support to the custodial party if that party does not have enough funds to care for the pet. However, when awarding pet custody, the issue of who can best afford to pay for pet care may enter and be a very important part of the equation.

Getting Pet Custody Laws Legal Help for Your Santa Rosa Divorce

Questions regarding the division of assets in a divorce can be complicated, especially when it comes to retirement accounts. If you have questions about divorce, Beck Law P.C. can help you. The family law attorneys at Beck Law P.C. can answer your questions and help you determine the best method of obtaining a divorce given your unique circumstances. For a consultation regarding divorce, or any other family law question, contact Beck Law P.C. at (707) 576-7175 or visit us online.