For divorcing couples – particularly those who don’t have children – determining who gets to keep their beloved pets is sometimes one of the most contested and emotional issues. Fortunately, in California, unlike in most states, pets are recognized as more than “property” to be divided in divorce.
That means if spouses aren’t able to agree on where their dog, cat or other beloved animals will live or how they’ll divide their time, judges are required under the law to consider the animal’s best interests as they decide.
Negotiating an agreement
Of course, as with everything in divorce, it’s typically best when spouses decide this without the intervention of the court. Some people draw up a pet custody and sharing agreement, which is somewhat like a parenting plan.
When a couple has children, the pet typically moves between homes with the kids. However, not all animals adjust to this kind of arrangement well – maybe due to age or health issues. Whether you have kids or not, it’s best to determine how you’ll share caretaking duties and expenses for your pet.
Making your case for pet custody
If your spouse is fighting you on having full or at least shared custody of your pet, you will likely need to provide evidence to a judge that you have been their primary caregiver, that your animal is more closely bonded to you and that they’re better off living with you.
What if, as unfortunately is sometimes the case, your spouse is only trying to keep your pet to punish you? Then it’s even more crucial that you show that they’ll be happier, safer and better cared for living with you.
Whether you negotiate your pet parenting arrangement with your spouse or a family court judge has to make the decision, it’s important to have experienced legal guidance.