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What Happens to Pets in a Divorce?

If you have ever owned a pet, you know that they are a valued member of the family and are more cherished than most possessions. This can be a complex and emotional situation in divorce, especially if you and your ex cannot reach an agreement. In most states, pets are divided up like assets in the case of divorce, meaning equally and to the satisfaction of both parties. However this precedent changed in 2018 thanks to California Assemblymember Bill Quirk and AB2274. Under section 2605 of the California Family Code, courts in California are entrusted to take into consideration the “care of the pet” in determining custody, much like they do with children. This law allows courts to decide which party is better equipped to care for animals and determine custody accordingly.

If you wish to maintain custody of your pet, you must be able to prove that you are the best caretaker for the animal. Some factors that will come into consideration are providing appropriate diet, living environment, and access to veterinary care, and even possibly day care for the pet while its humans are at work or at school. The judge may decide to appoint full custody to one party or determine joint custody; however the interest of the animal must be examined. California is the third state in the nation after Alaska and Illinois that now treats companion animals with the same importance as a human member of the household in matters of divorce.

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