The companionship and affection you get from your dog are special. After all, few things are better than coming home after a long day at work to see your pooch’s wagging tail. If you are heading for a divorce in California, though, you may wonder what happens to your favorite pet.
In most places, the law considers dogs, cats and other animals to be property. In those jurisdictions, what happens to the pet depends on divorce law. That said, California is a bit different. If you are going through a divorce, you should understand how a judge is likely to treat your animal.
A change in the law
Until recently, California divorce law treated animals as property. Under that idea, divorcing spouses had to split assets equally. That changed on January 1, 2019, though. Now, the California Family Code treats companion animals differently than other marital assets. While you may divide up your house, car, retirement accounts and other marital property equally, you likely must take a different approach with your dog.
Companion animals are still property under state law. Still, because the law recognizes the special nature of pets, a judge may consider a variety of factors in deciding what to do with your dog:
- The individual who acquired the pet
- The spouse who funds and cares for the animal
- The time each person spends with the creature
- Any evidence of abuse, neglect or other mistreatment
None of the above factors are necessarily determinative by themselves. On the contrary, you can expect the judge to consider all relevant information when making a decision. Still, if you have a greater attachment to your dog than your spouse, you may be able to secure either exclusive ownership or visitation.
Your dog probably means the world to you. While you may not mind giving up some marital property, you do not want to part with your pet. Fortunately, by understanding California law, you can better advocate for your property interests during divorce proceedings.