During a divorce in USA, pets are usually considered “property” and their fate is decided the same way you would decide how to divide the pots and pans. However, in California, Family Code 2605 gives judges the power to determine ownership of the pet. Judges can rule sole or joint ownership of the pet depending on what is “best for the pet”. In other words, during a divorce in California, pets are treated more like children than property.
Who Gets the Pet in a Divorce?
Judges may decide on who gets the pet based on what is best for the pet. In particular, these factors will be considered:
- who purchased or adopted the pet (who is the registered owner of the pet)
- who pays for the pet’s upkeep (who pays for pet food, veterinarian bills, dog walker, dog groomer, etc)
- who spends the most time with the pet?
- how will the presence/absence of the pet impact children
- what is in the best interest of the pet (who does the pet prefer? Which home would be better for the pet?)
How to Keep the Pet in a Divorce
If you want to keep the pet after a divorce then make a case for yourself by presenting evidence that you are
– the registered owner of the pet (documentation);
– you pay for the pet’s upkeep (receipts, bills);
– and you spend a lot of time with the pet (photos).
Keep in mind that once the judge makes his/her ruling, it becomes law. You can appeal
the decision or you can sue to get the pet back, but the whole process will be time-consuming and costly.
Another way to keep the pet is to get a divorce mediator to help negotiate the terms of the divorce. Instead of fighting in court, you can propose to keep the pet in exchange for something else that your Ex may want. Generally speaking, divorce mediation is preferable over litigation. Mediation is often less stressful and it produces better outcomes because both parties can discuss and negotiate until an acceptable arrangement is agreed upon.
Scott Levin, CDFA is a divorce mediator and he can help you get divorced without going to court. The ownership of the pet can be negotiated and not determined by a judge. Please contact Scott by Email or telephone: (858) 255-1321 for more information on the fate of pets in a divorce.