San Diego Pet Custody Lawyer
Help Protect the Rights of Your Pets
When it comes to child custody and visitation rights in the state of California, there are many laws and regulations, as well as legal precedents that have created a fairly standard approach to how these issues are handled. But when it comes to pets, the traditional standard has been to treat them as property. That means, during a divorce proceeding, a couple’s animals will be divided up in the same manner as the couple’s cash and other assets.
Of course, most pet owners do not consider their pets property, but members of the family. Thankfully, because our understanding of pets has evolved over time, courts are beginning to look at pets, especially dogs and cats, more like children, and will take into consideration what is best for the animal when deciding who gets custody.
How Do the Courts Decide?
In most cases, before a judge can determine how to divide property during a divorce, it is necessary to assess all the couple’s property and categorize everything according to:
- Whether it was property belonging to one spouse prior to the marriage,
- Whether it is communally owned, or
- Whether it is some combination of the two.
This can obviously be a complicated process, even when dealing with cash and inanimate objects. In general, the judge will use this same approach when deciding who will get custody of any pets.
Each state has different laws when it comes to how property is divided during a divorce. California is what is known as a "community property" state, meaning that a married couple or domestic partners have come together to form a legal community. Any property that was obtained during the marriage is therefore considered communal property, and this applies to pets as well.
Fortunately, the growing preference for judges is to decide on pet ownership based on the best interests of the animal. Laws in California were updated recently to provide more protection for animals in domestic violence disputes. California Family Code Section 6320 also includes a clause for exclusive possession of an animal if there is reason to believe it is in danger of harm from the other owner.
Factors in Pet Custody
Ideally, a couple should have a previously written agreement detailing what will happen to any pets during a divorce. But absent such a document, it may be left to the court or a mediator to decide. The court will take a number of factors into the decision, including the following:
- Who was the original owner of the animal?
- Who is the primary caregiver, both financially and in terms of interactions with the animal?
- Are there multiple pets involved?
- Does the couple also have children, who may be emotionally attached to the animal?
When it comes to a cherished animal, you don't want to leave it to a third party to decide who gets to keep it. The best course of action is to reach a mutual agreement over the care of your animal, including custody and visitation rights if desired. But whether or not you and your ex can agree, you should have an experienced San Diego family lawyer on your side who can help protect your rights.
Speak to a San Diego Pet Custody Attorney
No one wants to contemplate losing someone close to them, and this applies to pets as well. Going through a divorce can be traumatic, and it behooves you to have an advocate on your side who will fight tirelessly for your best interests. Huguenor Mattis, A.P.C. provides high-quality representation with a proven track record of success. Please contact our lawyers today at (858) 458-9500 to schedule a free consultation.