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New California law allows pet owners to seek custody in a divorce

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2019 | Divorce |

California passed a new law that treats pets as part of the family, rather than a piece of property. According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, owners can seek sole or joint ownership of their pets in court. The decision will be based on who can best care for the pet.

Care includes protecting your pet from harm and providing food, shelter and veterinary care. The law also stipulates that one spouse can seek an order to care for the pet until the divorce is finalized.

The new law took effect on Jan. 1, 2019.

Law provides legal protection for pets

Assemblyman Bill Quirk wrote the bill. As a dog owner, he understands most people view pets as family members. The bill allows legal protection for furry family members. It also ensures pets are considered during and after a divorce.

Old laws regarded pets as property

Previously, the law regarding pet custody was pretty general. Pets were viewed as property to be divided during a divorce.

California is a community property state, so property is divided evenly between former spouses. Essentially, this left the court with the decision of who should get the pet during a divorce without any legal guidance.

Judges were often forced to be creative when determining pet ownership. Some judges would place the pet between two former spouses to see which person  the animal preferred. If there were two pets, the court would split the two animals between the former spouses.

Some believe law will bog down family courts

Detractors believe this could new law could slow down divorce proceedings, since the court will consider a variety of factors to determine pet ownership.

Other proponents, including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the San Diego Humane Society, believe the law could lead to fewer homeless pets.