Any dog owner knows that the family dog is a loved and highly valued member of the family. When a couple faces divorce, the question often arises of who gets custody of the dog.
Traditionally, courts in California treated dogs and other pets like personal property, with the spouse who originally purchased the dog often getting custody. The other spouse, no matter how much they loved and cared for the dog, would lose all rights to see the animal.
New California pet custody law
In 2022, the California legislature enacted a law that changed how courts treated dogs and other pets. Under the law, judges consider the best interest and care of the dog in awarding custody.
The law allows judges to award the dog to one spouse or to assign joint custody of the dog, essentially permitting custody arrangements like those commonly established for children. A judge might, for example, award custody of the dog to each spouse on alternating weeks.
In determining custody, a judge can consider any factor relevant to the care and well-being of the dog, including who acquired the dog, whether either spouse primarily cared for the dog, which spouse has the strongest emotional connection to the dog and which spouse is best able to provide for the well-being of the dog moving forward.
If you are facing divorce, it is important to consult an experienced attorney, who can help you present the best possible case regarding the well-being of your dog. An attorney can also advise on the many other issues involved in a divorce.