Judges Will Soon Consider the Well-Being of Pets in Divorce Proceedings Under Bill Introduced Today

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

SACRAMENTO – Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) has introduced a bill that will require consideration of an animal’s interests in divorce proceedings and explicitly allow joint ownership of a companion animal.


AB 2274 expressly empowers judges to take into account the “well-being” of a companion animal. Alaska and Illinois have similar laws regarding treatment of pets in divorce proceedings.  


California is a community property state. All community property and debt acquired from the date of marriage until the marital cut-off date is divided and distributed equally. When spouses fail to reach an agreement on their own, the courts spilt it up for them equally. Under current law, judges consider pets property, and view them no differently than the value of a home, jewelry or car.


“There is nothing in statute that states a pet must be treated any differently than any other type of property we own. However, as a proud parent of a rescued dog, I know that owners view their pets as more than just property. They become a part of our family, and their well-being should be a consideration during divorce proceedings,” said Assemblymember Quirk.


In 2016, a judge presiding over a divorce case in Canada warned a couple of the following – "both parties should bear in mind that if the court cannot reach a decision on where the dogs go, it is open to the court under the legislation to order them sold and the proceeds split — something I am sure neither party wants."


“Today more than ever, people consider their pets as part of the family, not just personal property to be divvied up like an appliance or furniture. When it comes to legal separation, it is important to consider the wellbeing of the animal, and the San Francisco SPCA applauds Assemblymember Quirk for introducing this important legislation,” said Brandy Kuentzel, General Counsel of San Francisco SPCA


“I am proud to author AB 2274. When this bill becomes law, courts will view pet ownership differently and pets will legally be more than just property. Courts should award custody on what is best for the animal. Although my little Luna has a happy home, I am sure she is relieved to know I am working on this measure to help her furry friends that may be in homes with different circumstances.  It is clear we need to alter our view of pet safety and animal welfare,” said Assemblymember Quirk after he introduced the bill.