What to know about pet custody in a California divorce

On Behalf of | Jan 2, 2024 | Property Division

Until recently, pets were considered personal property under the law. This perspective significantly influenced how pet custody was handled during divorce proceedings.

However, recent legal changes have started recognizing pets’ unique role in families.

Assembly Bill 2274: A game changer

A significant development in California’s approach to pet custody came with the introduction of Assembly Bill 2274, effective January 1, 2019. This bill allows judges in divorce cases to consider the care and well-being of the pet, moving beyond the traditional view of pets as mere property. 

It authorizes courts to create shared custody agreements for pets, considering factors like who feeds the pet, takes it to the vet and provides general care. This approach acknowledges the emotional significance of pets in the lives of their owners.

Factors influencing pet custody decisions

When deciding on pet custody, several factors come into play. These include:

  • Caregiving responsibilities: The court looks at who has been primarily responsible for caring for the pet, such as feeding, grooming, and vet visits.
  • Financial capability: The ability of each party to financially support the pet, covering expenses like food, healthcare, and grooming.
  • Living arrangements: The court considers the living situations of both parties. A stable, safe, and pet-friendly environment is crucial.
  • Children’s attachment: If children are involved, their attachment to the pet can influence custody decisions, often favoring the parent who gets child custody.

As you can see, the ability to care for the pet is a significant factor in determining who retains custody. 

Pet custody in California divorces have evolved, with the state recognizing the unique emotional value of pets in families. Understanding this and preparing accordingly can help individuals navigate the complex process of pet custody in divorce.