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Rombro & Manley LLP
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How is pet ownership determined in a California divorce?

When a couple decides to end their marriage in California, they may decide to litigate certain issues. This is often the case when spouses disagree and are unable to achieve a peaceful compromise outside the courtroom. It is becoming more common for pet issues to be priority topics in divorce. The question is: Are they considered property division issues or custody matters?

The current trend in most California family courts is for pet ownership to be resolved in a manner that addresses the ongoing care of these companion animals. In fact, numerous celebrity couples have made headline news when battling over legal ownership of animals in divorce. Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert, for instance, went to court to resolve custody issues involving an entire farm and houseful of pets, including a flock of chickens, six dogs and three horses.

Like Shelton and Lambert, Mandy Moore and Ryan Adams did not have children when they decided to divorce but they did litigate the issue of who would have custody of their eight pets. Moore reportedly requested financial support from Adams to help care for the pets in her proceeding. However, when they finalized their divorce, the judge overseeing the case did not order either party to pay support.

Many California spouses understand the close bond many people have with their pets. To many people, pets are like family members, which means things can get complicated if spouses disagree as to whom their pets should live once they separate households. A family law attorney who has experience in custody litigation can provide strong support to any client currently facing pet-related issues in divorce.