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What Happens To The Pets During A Divorce?

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Welcoming a new pet into the family is a blessing and at the time, you may think that all of you will be together for many years. During a divorce though, many decisions must be made, and that includes what will happen to the pets. Historically, pets were considered property in California divorces and so, they were divided in the same manner as other assets, including your home and vehicle. Today that is not necessarily  the case and during a divorce, the court can consider what is best for the care of the pet, given the family dynamics, can be considered.

Who Gets Custody of the Pets?

California is one of just a few states that permits family courts discretion to allocate care of a pet similar to custody and visitation orders. When child custody decisions are being made during divorce, the court will only consider what is in the best interests of the children. Now, courts can view custody of the pets in a similar manner and assign sole or joint custody of the pet. The change makes sense, as many people consider their pets to be part of the family and there is often one party who takes on the majority of the pet responsibilities during a relationship.

Factors Considered in Pet Custody Cases

When considering what is in the best interests of the pet, a judge will consider many factors. These include which party walks, feeds, and takes care of the pet, as well as which spouse takes the pet to the vet when necessary. A judge may also consider the emotional ties between the pet and the opposing parties. For example, if one spouse is closer to the pet than the other party, they may receive custody even if the pet is not technically considered a support animal.

Of course, if there is any history of animal abuse, a judge will not award custody to the perpetrator of that abuse. Likewise, if either party has a history of domestic violence, the court can also consider this when making orders to ensure the safety of the pet.  The courts are concerned that in these cases, the abuser may turn their aggression on the animal, or that they will use the pet to further abuse the victim.

Just as it is possible to share child custody, a couple may also share custody of the pet after a divorce. This allows both parties to maintain their relationship with the pet throughout the year. However, the parties ability to communicate and the dynamics between them can make sharing care the a pet difficult.

Proving Your Case

Like other aspects of your divorce case, if you want custody of the pet, you will have to prove that staying with you is in the pet’s best interests. Presenting evidence such as witness testimony and expert testimony can help establish that you are the right one to care for the pet.

Our Divorce Lawyers in Santa Clara County Can Help You Prove Your Case

If you are going through a divorce and are concerned about what will happen to your pet, our Santa Clara County divorce lawyers at Hepner & Pagan, LLP can help you obtain the best outcome possible. Call us now at 408-688-9153 or contact us online to schedule a consultation so we can review your case.

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