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Joseph R. Zoucha, Attorney & Counselor at Law

Law gives judges more discretion to deal with pet custody issues

Every divorcing couple is different, which means the most contentious issue during marriage dissolution can vary by case. Sometimes the most fought over issue of a divorce isn't dividing up the furniture or deciding who gets the family home, but rather, deciding who gets the pet. Many people consider their pets to be part of the family, but family courts have often treated pets like any other piece of property during divorce proceedings. However, a new law in California will give judges much more discretion when deciding who your pet should live with post-divorce.

Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill in late September which allows judges to consider various factors before determining which spouse will get custody of a pet when a couple splits up. While pets will still be considered community property under this new law, starting January 1st judges can look at which spouse is responsible for the everyday care of the pet before making their decision. This will make determinations regarding pets similar to those made during child custody disputes.

In some cases, giving sole custody of a pet to one spouse through a divorce works perfectly. Better yet, if a couple has two pets, a judge may decide to give each spouse one pet. However, if both spouses have a deep attachment to the pet, things may get a little more complicated. In such cases, a court may essentially grant joint custody, allowing each spouse to spend a week or a month at a time with the pet.

When you spend so much time loving and caring for a pet, it can be very difficult to let your soon-to-be ex get custody. A family law attorney can help you work out an agreement with your spouse so that your pet can still be a part of your life post-divorce. Your attorney can also help you figure out what issues are most important to you in the divorce process and fight in an attempt to get what you really want.

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