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Law Offices of Benita Ventresca408-395-8822
20 S. Santa Cruz Ave., Suite 212, Los Gatos, CA 95030
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Mediation and Litigation

What Happens to the Family Pet during Divorce?

Posted on in Property Division

California divorce attorney, California mediation lawyerWhen a pet-owning couple goes through a divorce, which spouse retains custody of the animals can be a contentious issue. While many people consider pets to be part of the family, California law considers pets to be property.

California has many laws on child custody, but it has no laws that specifically govern what happens to pets when owners divorce. For this reason, a court will not rule on a custody agreement for animals the way it would if there are children involved. Instead, it may consider the pet to be an asset of the marriage, much the same way a car or computer would be considered.

Because of this, many people find that mediation is a better way to resolve pet custody issues. With mediation, the parties are not bound to treat their divorce the same way a court would. In mediation, a pet would not automatically be classified as property. Rather, a pet’s best interest and well-being could be considered. In a mediation, a pet would be treated as a member of the family who is also affected by the changes that come with divorce.

A mediator may consider the following in coming to a custody arrangement:

  • The type of pet and its needs;
  • The children of the marriage and where they primarily reside;
  • Which spouse provides the most care to the pet;
  • Which arrangement would put the least amount of stress on the animal; and
  • Who originally purchased the animal and in whose name is on registration and veterinary papers.

An agreement you make may include:

  • The specific custody schedule;
  • Preferred animal care providers such as veterinary clinics, groomers, boarders, and dog walkers;
  • How the costs will be shared. Pet costs include food, supplies, and medical care. Keep in mind that medical care can become costly later in the animal’s life; and
  • Who will make end-of-life decisions.

It should be noted that in any situation in which there is domestic abuse, California Family Code Section 6320(b) provides that an animal can be protected under domestic violence restraining orders if there is a reason to believe that a pet may be at risk of physical harm.

If you are going through a divorce, and believe that pet custody may become an issue, mediation can resolve this dispute. Contact the San Jose divorce attorney, located in Los Gatos, at the Ventresca Law Firm today at 408-395-8822 for a free initial consultation.



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