Legislation that will radically reshape how dog custody will be resolved in divorce cases into law. Under the previous rules; California family law court treated dogs the same way that they treated couches, cookware, computers, or any other ordinary property. The courts put a basic economic price on the value of the animal. That price did not account for intrinsic value.
Times have changed. Beginning next year, California family law courts will now treat dogs much the same way as how they treat children. Dogs will still be subject to property division in accordance with California’s community property standard. However, family law judges will now have authority to consider a wide range of different factors. Deciding the ‘awarding’ custody (ownership) of the dog to the appropriate person.
Among other things, California family law judges may consider who walks, feeds the dog, and takes the animal to medical appointments.
As well as, with whom the dog seems to be more bonded. Finally, any other factors deemed appropriate in determining which spouse will give the dog a better home moving forward.. Under these new rules, it is possible that the California judges may sometimes even award some version of shared/joint custody of the animal. And of course, divorcing couples still have the right to create a mutually agreeable out-of-court settlement that addresses what will happen with their pet.
To be clear, the new law covers more than just canines.
While dogs were the primary focus on the legislators who pass the bill, the language of the statute covers ‘pets’. This includes Cats and other household animals alike; while excluding livestock and farm animals. As noted by Sonoma County divorce lawyer Charles D. Stark, “This new bill marks a significant change in California law. For many people, dogs and other pets become true members of the family. With the increased legal authority granted by the bill; California family law judges will have the ability to make sure that the pet ends up in the right home.”
The new regulations on pets and divorce will go into effect on January 1st, 2019.