Pets are such an important part of so many people’s lives that the companionship and emotional support they provide can be very strong. Because of this, having a pet is very popular. Sixty-eight percent of households, which equates to 85 million people, have a pet. It is estimated that in 2018, Americans will spend over $72 billion on their pets.
Since pets are such an integral part of the lives of so many people, it is interesting that when it has come to divorce, pets have always been treated as property with no consideration for the well-being of the animal. As of January 2019, that is no longer the case in California.
In September 2018, a new law was passed in California stating that courts can assign either sole or joint ownership of pets during a divorce case. This new law, that takes into consideration the future care of the pet, is very similar to how courts determine the best interest of the children when determining custody.
Judge will consider what is best for pets
Prior to this when pets were lumped together with other property such as a car, the best outcome for the pet was not always considered. However, now that this new law is in place, there can be a clear direction given by the courts on what is best for the animal. In the past, when both parties fought over custody of pets as much as they were doing for the children, suggestions from the courts were often viewed as cold and non-caring. For example, judges in the past may offer as a solution for the pet be sold with the couple splitting the profit.
Law designed to be best for the pets
Pets do not like disruption in their life and can have a tough time adjusting to new circumstances. Pets can often suffer trauma not only when they are moved, but when an owner they are used to is not around. Though this new law is for any pet, the clear majority that becomes a sticking point in divorce cases is with dogs and closely followed by cats. However, it is not unusual for people to want clear custody decisions made for horses, iguanas and even snakes.
California is not alone in enacting a law to protect pets during a divorce. Alaska first did it in 2017 with what it called a “best interest” law and Illinois addressed a law for the protecting pets at the time of divorce in 2018. If you are considering divorce and have concerns about your pet, you can now feel confident that the pet may have more consideration towards its future than it may have had in the past.