Up until recently, California courts treated pets simply as community property to divide amongst the separating couple like a couch or house. This did not sit well for passionate pet owners that wanted full custody of their dogs and cats, leaving judges unprepared for these tense scenarios.
Governor Brown made sure that would not be the case in 2019. He recently signed Assembly Bill 2274 to allow pets to receive special consideration in the court proceedings. While California is not the first state to allow this, it is still rarely seen across the rest of the country. Couples planning to separate soon should be aware of what this new law entails and how it can affect their divorce proceedings.
What this means
Under the new law, one of the parties in the divorce can file an order to allow one of them to take care of the pet prior to the final determination of their ownership. It notes that whoever the court chooses to take care of the animal will not have any impact on their final decision. This clarification aims to prevent couples from fighting each other over taking care of Fluffy before the proceedings occur.
The primary purpose of the bill is to allow the court more discretion when assigning sole or joint custody of the pet. While they still consider pet animals as community property, they will now consider which owner will do a good job of keeping the pet protected and well-cared for. Since they define “care” as providing the animal with food, water, shelter and veterinary treatments, they will likely contemplate on job and home statuses when making the decision.
A service or hindrance?
The bill has seen its fair share of supporters and opponents. Those who support it appreciate the fact that the court is taking more precautions towards treating what they see as members of the couple’s family. Opponents feel that spending more time towards determining pet custody will delay the already long divorce proceedings and only complicate matters for the court.
The law will not take place until January 1, 2019, so if you plan on finalizing your divorce before the year ends, it will not apply to your asset division. While it may seem inconsequential to some, many business owners in high asset divorces might feel that losing their dog is the equivalent of losing a son. If you want proper knowledge about all areas in your asset division, a professional family law attorney can educate you on past and current laws to take off some of the stress in the process.