Divorce signature, marriage dissolution document.

The Best Interest of the Dog: What California Law Has To Say About Pets in Divorce

In the past, California law has treated pets just like any other property in a divorce, but as of January 1, 2019, courts will consider the “best interest of the pet” before making any final orders. This new law likens pets to children in that they can have a custody order of sorts. Rather than divvy up dogs, cats, and other pets, divorcing couples will now have the option to share custody, or petition for visitation rights, shared expenses for maintenance, and so on.

If you are preparing for a divorce and you’re concerned about who will get to keep your shared pet, make sure you know how this new law could affect you.

Understanding Assembly Bill 2274

The recent Assembly Bill 2274, commonly referred to as “Best Interest of the Pet,” will ask courts to look at pets with more gravity than they do standard property, like homes and cars. Instead, courts should consider which spouse is better equipped to care for the pet. Depending on the circumstances, the judge may elect to grant sole or joint custody, as well as visitation. In order to determine which pet “parent” will receive custody, the judge will look at who takes the pet to the veterinarian, who is the primary caretaker, who pays for the expenses, and so on.

Although the pets will still, technically, fall under the category of personal property, this new amendment will ensure pets are granted extra considerations to better ensure they’re cared for after a divorce or separation.

How Could This Affect Your Pet?

In court, couples will no longer be able to barter and negotiate possessions in exchange for ownership of their shared pet. Instead, the presiding judge will have the authority to determine what is “in the best interest” of the pet by assessing the capabilities of each “pet parent.” In doing so, the pet’s wellbeing will be the first priority. These special considerations may alter on a case-by-case basis, which means courts are free to find customized solutions to better suit the pet and family.

Are you in need of a divorce attorney who can help with your pet custody? Contact Fenchel Family Law PC to discuss your case with our attorneys and find out how we can help you ensure your cat, dog, horse, or other pet receives the consideration he/she is due.

Ready to get started? Call (415) 805-9069 to get in touch with our firm.