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The Law Offices of W. Douglas McKeague The Law Offices of W. Douglas McKeague
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Who Gets the Dog/Cat? Divorce & Your Pets


Divorce can be tough, especially when it comes to dividing property. But would you really consider your beloved cat, dog, or other family pet property? The state of California presumes any pet that was acquired during marriage to be community property. This means that they will be viewed as an asset to be given to one spouse or the other, just like a car, house, or other type of property.

How Courts Award Pet Custody

Can it really be that simple? Courts rarely, if ever, order a shared custody arrangement for a pet when both parties cannot come to an agreement. They will typically seek what is in the best interest of the pet, placing them in the hands of who they deem to be the most suitable owner.

They will review questions like the following:

  • Where will the pet be most comfortable?
  • Which spouse has the most time to provide care?
  • Who was the primary caretaker previously?
  • Will the pet be cared for properly in either home?

These questions can be tough to answer, especially when both spouses provided equal care to a pet.

Alternatives to Court-Ordered Ownership

Pet custody not a new controversy. The issue has been gaining more and more attention, causing divorce courts to carefully review the laws regarding pets and how ownership is awarded. Is there a better solution? There are many couples who have opted to create a prenup, which dictates who will get the family pet if a divorce or dissolution of a partnership occurs. Many couples agree that sharing custody of a pet or determining it before hand is much better than leaving their beloved pet's fate in the hands of the court.

If you are concerned about what would happen to a family pet in the case of a divorce or separation between you and your partner, you may want to talk with an attorney about your case. Our Orange County divorce lawyer has years of experience and is fully qualified to handle your pet custody agreement. Call today to schedule a free case evaluation!

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