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Navigating the Legalities of Pet Custody in California

Nov 20, 2023 | Pet Custody

For many Americans, pets are cherished members of the family. These beloved companions bring comfort and unconditional love into our daily lives. However, when human relationships dissolve, questions about pet custody can become emotionally and legally complex.

In this article, we’ll look at the ways California has taken steps to address the issues surrounding pet custody and help pet owners explore and understand their rights under the Constitution of California.

The Evolution of Pet Custody in California

Traditionally, family court treated pets like they would other physical, inanimate property such as cars and furniture, and would be divided among other community property based on the current fair market value.
AB 2274 enacted into law in 2019 added Section 2605 to California’s Family Code, which focuses on the best interests and aims to prevent escalating disputes.

Factor’s Considered by the Courts

While every case is different, here are some elements the courts may consider to determine the pets best interests.

  1. Primary caregiver. The court may assess which party has been the primarily responsible for the daily care, feeding, grooming and veterinary needs.
  2. Pet’s as gifts. If the pet was given as a gift, such as a birthday or holiday present, the court might find this information relevant to making their decision.
  3. Living environment. The stability and suitability of each party’s living situation may be evaluated.
  4. Financial responsibility. The ability of each party to provide financial stability for the pet’s needs, including veterinary care, food, and other essentials.
  5. Previous agreements. If there are pre-existing agreements or arrangements regarding pet custody, the court may take these into account.

Tips For Pet Owners

  1. Put your pet’s interests first. Court’s will prioritize the well-being of you pet when making a decision.
  2. Document pet care. Maintain detailed records of your pet’s care including feeding schedules, veterinary visits, and other pertinent information. This can demonstrate the role as the primary caregiver.
  3. Speak to an attorney. Seeking advice for these complex issues may be the best way to get ahead and avoid a pet custody battle. Call 805-879-7523 to speak to our experienced family law attorneys.

California’s pet custody laws signify a growing awareness of the important role pets play in our lives and the need to protect their wellbeing during times of change. While pets aren’t treated exactly like children, California’s legal framework now recognizes their unique family member status. If you find yourself in a pet custody dispute, contact our office for a consultation to better understand your rights and responsibilities as a pet-owner in California.

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