The New Year is bringing some good news to California pet owners going through a divorce by giving them a legal leg to stand on when disputing the pet’s ownership in court. Previously, pets had been treated like property in divorce cases, similar to vehicles, and orders had been given to sell pets and divvy up the proceeds between the divorcing couple. But as pet owners very well know, pets are not like property-they are more like children and divorce is stressful for them as well.
The new law will now change the way courts treat pets. Sponsored by a dog owner and state assembly member, the measure allows judges to create shared custody agreement by considering the care of the pet in question. Now judges can take who takes the pet for walks and feeds them into account when making decisions on whom the dog should live with.
Custody of pets has been contested in courts by divorcing couples for years, with 88 percent of them arguing over dogs. While some judges take the matter seriously, none have been willing to go out on a limb and treat pets as anything other than property. The new laws can now end the confusion surrounding the matter, even though the law has less teeth than the two other states that have similar laws on the books-the statute says judges may, making it optional for judges.
Pet owners understand the ways animals can be used to hurt the other spouse in a divorce case but the new law may be able to prevent that. Couples going through a divorce in California may find it helpful to consult an experienced attorney to discuss how the new law could affect their divorce proceedings.