Who Gets the Dog in a California Divorce?
Deciding to adopt a pet can be an exciting commitment to make. Often the caretaking responsibilities are shared between spouses and children, and bonds are quickly formed. According to the 2012 U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook, six out of ten pet owners consider their pets to be a family member. Unfortunately, when divorce threatens to split a family apart, the companion animals are also involved.
Pets Are Considered Personal Property
While some couples consider their dog a child of sorts, the law almost always designates animals as personal property under the Fourth Amendment when settling assets in a divorce, according to the American Bar Association. This means the court decides what is in the best interests of the owners and not necessarily the pet’s well-being. One way to prevent ugly arguments over the pets is to include them in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement with your spouse.
What to Consider When Divorcing with a Pet
- Who takes primary care of your animal? Are you the one who is getting up to walk the dog or who is calling the vet when your horse is sick? Sometimes in marriages, the splitting of assets becomes a chance to exert power over the spouse. It may be tempting to want sole custody over your pet, but if you aren’t the primary caretaker it may not be the right decision for your or your furry companion who depends on you and your spouse;
- Was the pet owned by one person prior to the marriage? If so, the best decision might be to allow the original owner the first opportunity to take the pet unless it has been otherwise agreed upon. If your animal was a present for your children then it is best not to separate them for extended periods of time. When multiple animals have lived together it is also recommended you keep them together. In addition to creating strong bonds with their owners, pets often become best friends with the animals who share their home;
- Shared custody is an option. Similar to children, a pet owner can still have visiting rights even if they are not granted primary custody of the pet during the divorce. Nobody should have to say a permanent goodbye to such a friendly face in the family. Try to come up with a reasonable visiting schedule because each member of the family could probably use a little extra love from a pet during the emotional rollercoaster of a divorce; and
- Throughout the process, keep an eye out on your pet’s health. The stress of a divorce impacts the entire family - Princess included. Make sure they get adequate attention and take them to the vet if their habits, such as sleep, appetite or behavior, change drastically.
Call a Family Law Attorney Today
Contact the San Jose family law attorneys at the office of Gemma V. Reyes immediately with any questions you may have. We are eager to help you throughout each step of your case.