Can’t agree on who gets the family pet during your divorce? The courts are now poised to help. On September 27, 2018, Governor Jerry Brown signed into law Assembly 2274, which adds section 2605 to the Family Code. Effective on January 1, 2019, the new law provides courts with direction on how to divide animals during a divorce case.
The code section reads as follows:
2605. (a) The court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may enter an order, prior to the final determination of ownership of a pet animal, to require a party to care for the pet animal. The existence of an order providing for the care of a pet animal during the course of proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties shall not have any impact on the court’s final determination of ownership of the pet animal.
(b) Notwithstanding any other law, including, but not limited to, Section 2550, the court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may assign sole or joint ownership of a pet animal taking into consideration the care of the pet animal.
(c) For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:
(1) “Care” includes, but is not limited to, the prevention of acts of harm or cruelty, as described in Section 597 of the Penal Code, and the provision of food, water, veterinary care, and safe and protected shelter.
(2) “Pet animal” means any animal that is community property and kept as a household pet.
Section (a) allows the court to order a temporary home for the animal while the divorce proceedings are pending. Section (b) allows the court to assign sole or joint ownership of the animal. The court must determine the best interests of the animal when deciding to whom to assign.
Keep in mind that this only applies to pet animals that are considered “community property”. Generally this means the animal was acquired during the marriage and not by gift or inheritance.
You may need a family law attorney to help protect your interests if you are going through a divorce, with or without pets. Contact The Zarin Law Firm to discuss your case.