It is not a secret that residents in Westlake Village and across California love their pets. California pet owners pamper their pets with doggie daycares, pet walkers, pet strollers, dog parks, and pet spas. Californians are so well known for spoiling their pets that last year a reality show made its debut featuring four Southern California women who treat their pets as their own children. As Westlake Village divorce attorney knows, there are many Californians who love their pets like children and that can be difficult when it comes to divorce.
In years past, courts looked at domestic animals as property when it came to divorce and judges would decide which spouse kept the family pet the same way that they would decide which spouse would get a dining room table or an automobile. When looking at pets as property, judges would take different approaches to make sure that property splits were fair. For example, if a couple had two pets, a judge may decide to give one pet to one spouse and one pet to the other spouse without considering how splitting them up would affect the pets themselves. Or they would look at whether or not pets were marital property so that if one spouse adopted a dog prior to marriage, the dog would not be marital property and would, therefore, go to the spouse who originally adopted the pet. Sometimes judges even created shared custody terms that gave each spouse rights to family pets based on a custody schedule.
California’s new law went into effect this year, which allows courts to look at what is best for the domestic animal in terms of custody rather than looking at pets as property. The law provides that judges are authorized to consider the care pets will receive with each divorcing spouse when making a pet custody determination. This gives a more emotional approach to looking at what is best for pets similar to how courts look to what is best for children in child custody cases. This helps to ensure that a pet’s well being is considered by the court.
Under California’s new law, courts are authorized to consider pets’ care when determining custody in divorces. What this means is that the court may consider, but is not required to consider the pet’s care in determining custody. While this may be understandably concerning to some animal lovers, the law is at least a step up from prior divorce law where pets were considered to be nothing more than property.
If you are going through a divorce, contact Westlake Village divorce attorney at the Law Offices of Stephanie L. Mahdavi to schedule a consultation. Our family law team is dedicated to diligently serving the best interests of each client in a variety of family law matters including custody, child support, visitation, alimony, divorce modifications, property and asset division, high asset divorce, business valuation, and retirement division.