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Pet Custody in a California Divorce

Pet Custody

The new California pet custody law places emphasis on the well being of the family pet. On September 27, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 2274 which was adopted into the California Family Code 2605 on January 1, 2019. Existing law provides that upon request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, the court has the authority to assign sole or joint ownership of a community property pet animal while taking into consideration the care of the pet animal (the best interests of the pet). Not only does the court now have the authority prior to the final determination of ownership to assign sole or joint ownership, but the law also gives the court authority to decide ownership of pets in these cases.

New Pet Custody Law – California Family Code 2605 provides:

(a) The court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may enter an order, prior to the final determination of ownership of a pet animal, to require a party to care for the pet animal. The existence of an order providing for the care of a pet animal during the course of proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties shall not have any impact on the court’s final determination of ownership of the pet animal.

(b) Notwithstanding any other law, including, but not limited to, Section 2550, the court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may assign sole or joint ownership of a pet animal taking into consideration the care of the pet animal.

(c) For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:

(1) “Care” includes, but is not limited to, the prevention of acts of harm or cruelty, as described in Section 597 of the Penal Code, and the provision of food, water, veterinary care, and safe and protected shelter.

(2) “Pet animal” means any animal that is community property and kept as a household pet.

Prior to the passing of this law, animals were merely considered as “chattel” (an item of property other than real estate), under the law reducing the family pet to the level of a possession like any other property item such as a couch or television. The new law recognizes the family pet to be more than merely “chattel”, and along the lines of a family member, by requiring the court’s consideration of the best interests of the pet through the consideration of which party is best suited to provide care for the pet.

What to do if you Want Custody of the Family Pet

With this new pet custody law, pets are recognized as their owners view them – part of the family. It requires the court to consider the well-being and best interests of the pet and their care and helps to insure the pets are in the best hands to remain healthy and safe.

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