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Rombro & Manley LLP

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Should pets be treated like the sofa in a divorce?

On Behalf of | Dec 9, 2021 | Divorce

Pets are our funny, furry companions that provide us with companionship and unconditional love. This love becomes all the more meaningful if pet owners decide to divorce. When pet parents divorce, who gets to keep the pet?

Pets as property?

Prior to 2018, when it came to pets and divorce pets were considered property not unlike the sofa, electronics and automobiles. Therefore, they were subject to California’s property division rules. California is a community property state. This means both spouses have an equal interest in all marital assets, and pets the parties adopted while married would be included in the divisible estate. This caused many problems. One specific problem was that one spouse would unfairly use the pet as leverage to gain more in the property division process.

Pet custody instead

In 2018, California signed into law a bill stating that when pet parents divorce, the court must take the care of the pet into consideration. This treated pets more like children, with a pet custody order being made rather than simply treating the pet as another piece of property. Specifically, starting in 2019 courts had the ability to execute “shared custody” agreements for pets. Courts might use a “best interests” standard when making such decisions, not unlike child custody cases. That being said, the law did not give courts any guidance regarding what a “best interests” standard would be.

Still, California’s pet custody laws are a step in the right direction for pet owners who want to continue living with their furry companion post-divorce. Pets, like children, should not be used as pawns in a heated divorce. By treating the pet more like children and less like property, California courts can ensure the pet’s needs will be met.