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Oct, 27 2018

In some relationships, pets can be as beloved as children. It goes without saying that they are members of the family. This makes it just as hard when a couple with an adored pet decide to divorce. Who gets to keep the pet? Does the other person have the right to visit with the pet? These very real questions are the reason for the new pet custody law in California.

What is the New Pet Custody Law in California?

The new pet custody law in California is called “Assembly Bill 2274” and it goes into effect January 1, 2019. The law allows the court to decide ownership and custody of pets. The bill was introduced by California Assemblyman Bill Quirk. He stated it is time that pets got the family member status that they deserve.

In divorce when there are children involved, the courts look at what is in the best interest of the child. In divorces when pets are involved, a pet had been considered part of a couple’s personal property in the past. This means that the decisions about pet animals were made in the best interest of the owners. With the new law, court decisions will be made that are in the best interest of the pet itself. Two other states, Illinois and Alaska, have turned similar bills into law.


What Are its Benefits?

There are several benefits to this law.

A person can petition for sole or joint custody of the pet.

This part of the law says that one of the divorcing parties can petition for sole or joint custody. This is based on the care of the pet. How is care of the pet defined?

Provision of:

  • Food and water;
  • Veterinary care;
  • Safe and protected shelter;
  • Prevention of acts of harm or cruelty.

The well-being of the pet is now considered.

The new pet custody law in California means that an animal’s well-being is now of the utmost importance. Real dogs were the inspiration for the bill. Assemblyman Quirk’s rescue dog Luna is the Shih-Tzu-Maltese mix that is a part of his family. He found a willing ally in Governor Brown, whose “first dog” Lucy Brown is often featured on his official website.

Fewer homeless animals

Supporters of the new bill are hoping that it leads to fewer homeless animals. Sometimes in divorces, pets are given up to shelters when couples can’t agree. These supporters include the San Diego Humane Society and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Pets are more than property

When introducing the bill, Assemblyman Quirk pointed out that pets used to be treated just like property. Technically “pet animals” are considered part of community property to be divided. After the bill becomes law, they will be recognized as the family members they are.

The pet can be placed with one person while the divorce is being finalized.

If it is determined to be in the best interest of the pet, the animal can be placed in the custody of one person while final arrangements are being decided.

Legal Separation in California With Pets

In California, you can file for a legal separation the same way you can file for a divorce. Even though your marital status does not change until you’re legally divorced, you can legally divide your assets and debts. In the case of pets, legal separation agreements can state that the pet stays exclusively with one person until the divorce is final. Contact an experienced divorce attorney to find out how the separation process works in California.

What animals are considered pets?

What are “pet animals”? In California, the definition of pets goes well beyond dogs and cats. Pets also include horses and reptiles. California also has a very unique list of exotic pets that include Tarantulas, Ostrich, Camels, Toucans, large Constrictor Snakes, second-generation Wolf-Dogs, American Bison, Monitor Lizards, Zebra, and Hybrid Cats.

Some popular animals that are illegal in California and will not be considered pets include Ferrets, Hedgehogs, Monkeys, Squirrels, and Gerbils.

How did Judges Determine Who Got to Keep the Pet Before?

In the past, there were no set rules for pet custody in California. Because of this, judges had to use some creative methods to reach an agreement between parties. Some previous solutions have been to:

  • Place the dog between the owners to see who it went to, and determine which person it liked better.
  • If the couple had two pets, the judge might force them to split the pets up.
  • A judge would allow one person to have the animal for a week or a month, and then they would trade with the other person.

If you have any questions at all about divorce procedures in California, including the new pet custody law, don’t hesitate to contact us. Schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced attorneys today.

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Stockton Family Court

  • The Stockton Family Court is a division of the Superior Court Of California.
  • The main responsibility of the Stockton Family Court is to settle matters pertaining to Child Custody.
  • Family Court services also include an orientation program for parents and modifying existing child custody agreements.