Getting a divorce is a difficult situation for everyone involved, especially if two partners have children who are in the middle of the divorce process. Many people also have pets that are considered a member of the family, but their circumstances can be drastically different in the event of a divorce.
Traditionally, pets are viewed as personal property when it comes to divorce law. This means people must discuss where the pets will go once it comes time to divide up property. Unfortunately, this can mean that pets will go to a home that is not the best fit for them.
A new law in California has been put in place to change some of these practices. Pets are still considered property, but a judge will have the final decision about where a pet will live.
This creates a similar arrangement to how a child custody case is decided. The law also treats pets more like a member of the family and less like a piece of property or a household good, which is how it can often come across as under old legislation.
Under the new law, people will still have to decide how to split pet ownership rights since the law still considered pets as community property. If two spouses are not able to agree on a division of ownership, then the courts will step in to facilitate a decision.
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The judge will have the chance to review a variety of factors and then come up with a solution that is the best choice for the pets and people involved. Each spouse will have ownership rights over a pet if it was adopted or obtained after marriage, unless something else is spelled out in a prenuptial agreement.
Judges will ask questions in order to get an idea of where the pets should go after a divorce. Questions could include inquiries into who spends more money on the pet’s food and toys, who actually adopted the pet, who takes care of it on a daily basis, and who spends the most time with the animal.
Judges will also review any allegations of domestic abuse or animal abuse as they come up with a decision about what spouse should have ownership rights.
Sometimes, a judge might decide to share custody of a pet, where one spouse would have a pet for a certain amount of time, and then the pet would go live with the other spouse for a while. The new law is designed to make pet custody cases easier to manage and speed up the process of awarding ownership.
Pets are a difficult kind of property when it comes to legal proceedings since it is hard to “divide” one pet up between spouses. It is also pretty hard to divide community property that is personal or of a high value, as many pets are to their families.
If you are in the divorce process and have at least one pet, you should seek the services of an experienced lawyer who is up-to-date on the new California pet custody law.
A good lawyer will help you navigate the process of securing or giving custody of a pet away and will be able to advise you on how the judge might look at your particular circumstances and what evidence they could review to make a decision about custody.
Do you have a question about pet custody laws in California? Click here to contact Von Esch Law today!