New law changes pet custody options in divorce cases in California

Monday, October 29, 2018
Judges now have authority to decide who keeps the family pet in divorce the same way child custody is handled.
 
DVM360 MAGAZINE
 
A new law has been passed in California that grants judges the authority to decide who gets custody of the family pet in divorces cases, much as they decide child custody, according to the Associated Press (AP). Until now, pets have been considered property, a status that puts them in the same category as material items like TVs and vehicles.
 
A new bill signed by California Gov. Jerry Brown states that pets will still be considered community property, but the judge deciding who gets to keep the pet will be able to consider things like who feeds the pet, takes it to the veterinarian and walks it, the AP reports.
 
“I think it’s a good idea. I personally have a little rescue bichon poodle named Rodney King Stone. He’s like a family member,” family law attorney Megan Green of Los Angeles tells the AP, who has seen her share of couples battle bitterly over their pets in divorce cases.
 
Without the law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, judges have had to get creative. According to the AP, some judges have tried to figure out which owner the pet liked better, or if the family had two pets, a judge would suggest splitting them up.
 
Assemblyman Bill Quirk (D), who introduced the law, feels pets should have the status they deserve—as family members. He found support from the governor, who has a photo of the “first dog,” complete with biography, on his official website.