How Are Pets Handled in a California Divorce?

Serving Clients Throughout Sonoma, Mendocino, Lake, and Napa Counties

Do you have a strong bond with your cat? Can’t imagine life without your dog? Many people who adopt pets with their spouses and later seek a divorce feel worried that they might not be able to keep their pet in the divorce, especially if their soon-to-be-ex also has a close relationship with the animal and would like to keep it.

In most states (and in California until recently) pets are treated as property in divorce proceedings. They have historically not been considered any differently from furniture or a car. But now California recognizes your pets’ rights in court. If you are getting divorced in California, your pets will be handled similarly to children. The judge will determine who gets to keep the pet or pets based on what is in the “best interest” of the animal.

How is the pet’s “best interest” determined?

The judge will consider many factors such as:

  • Who has a stronger bond with the pet?
  • Who feeds the pet?
  • Who takes the pet to the vet?
  • Who plays with the pet?

Which types of pets are treated this way in California?

Not just cats and dogs! Any animal that you and your spouse keep as a pet together has the right to have its best interest considered in divorce proceedings, and custody awarded appropriately.

Can you get pet support (like you’d get child support) if you are awarded custody?

No. The party who loses custody of the pet will not have any financial responsibility to help pay for its care. This responsibility falls solely to the party who wins custody.

Who can help me win custody of my pet in a California divorce?

At Carroll Law Office, we understand that your pets are an important part of your family. Our firm is well-equipped to help with all aspects of a California divorce, including helping you prove that staying with you instead of your spouse is in the best interest of your pet. We will advocate for you so that you can focus on your healing and your next steps in life.

If you’re getting ready to begin the process of a divorce, contact Carroll Law Office at (707) 536-1156 to learn more about how we can help you.

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