What Happens to the Pet in a California Divorce?

When you and your spouse split up, the two of you will undoubtedly have to work through a variety of matters that may include asset division, child custody issues and so on. If the two of you also have a pet you share, you may need to make some important decisions about what you plan to do as far as that pet once you officially go your separate ways.

Increasingly, states are changing the way they handle pet-related custody issues. California is one of the first states to make some important distinctions as to how to handle these situations. Thus, if you live in California and wonder what may happen to that pet in your divorce, here is some important information about what you can expect.

The “best interests” consideration

If you and your ex need to work through child custody issues during your divorce, you may be familiar with the phrase “best interests of the child.” Typically, when making child custody decisions, courts will consider a child’s best interests, taking into account factors that may include residential, financial and emotional considerations, among others.

As of January of this year, though, California’s court system started considering the “best interests of the pet” before making related custody decisions. In other words, rather than view shared pets similarly to, say, cars or collectibles, courts now must consider which party in the divorce would be able to provide a better life for the pet.

Assessing a pet’s “best interests”

So, what might a court consider when assessing a pet’s best interests? Often, a court considers factors that could include who primarily cares for the pet, meaning who walks, feeds and financially provides for the pet. The court may, too, consider which living situation would ultimately prove the least traumatic for the pet before making custody decisions.

While many couples who divorce end up fighting over dogs, these rules can apply to virtually any type of pet.

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