We often consider pets to be part of the family. While divorcing couples often consider arrangements when it comes to changes in child custody and other family matters, many families often do not consider family pets and how ownership of these pets may change during a divorce. Pet custody disputes are on the rise according to a survey conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2014. More and more individuals are fighting over pets as part of their family disputes.
How Do California Courts Deal With Pet Custody Cases?
California leads the nation in the development of animal welfare laws. The state as a whole is concerned with protecting animal welfare and animal rights. However, an area in which animal laws are sparse in California is when it comes to sharing a pet after a divorce. There are some states that have specific animal custody laws, but California is not one of them.
In the past, California courts have treated pets as personal property, similar to furniture or vehicles. However, in 2012 the California Second District Court of Appeals ruled at the very least that a person could maintain an action for the medical costs of an injured animal. This ruling indicated that animals may get more special treatment than other personal property, but it does not seem that these developments have yet reached the family court. In California, pets fall in somewhat of a gray area between personal property and children. Courts will often look at who is the owner of the animal through kennel or breeding records. Occasionally courts will use a best interests standard, similar to child welfare, to determine whether or not a pet can live with a particular individual.
California has passed some laws to protect domestic pets and animals if there is reason to believe that one of the individuals in the divorce is harming, or may harm the pet.
How Do I Make Sure I Get the Family Pet in a Divorce?
The best way to ensure that you receive a pet after a divorce is to draft an effective prenuptial or marital agreement that clearly describes who receives ownership of a pet and how high-cost items like vet visits will be separated. These types of agreements can ensure a fair distribution of marital property, including a determination of ownership of pets. Usually, unless it is very unfair, most California judges will uphold a marital agreement that both parties agreed upon. An experienced attorney can help you draft an agreement that ensures a property distribution plan that effectively protects your rights.
How Can a Los Angeles Divorce Lawyer Help?
Divorce can be difficult no matter what the circumstances. At Berenji & Associates we have the experience to get you the outcome you deserve in a divorce proceeding. We have participated in the division of all types of marital property, from furniture, bank accounts and real estate, to determining ownership of a pet after divorce. If you are in a marital dispute in Los Angeles, CA, do not hesitate to call us today for a free consultation.