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Owning a pet is about so much more than simply feeding an animal. For most people in California, pet ownership means treating an animal like another valued member of the family. Unfortunately for most pet parents, this familial bond has not always translated well during divorce, putting beloved animals in the middle of heated property division disputes. Now, a new California law aims to help these individuals handle things more easily. 

The bill was recently signed by Governor Jerry Brown, and although it does not change the designation of pets as community property, it does improve matters during divorce. Instead of automatically shuffling pooches into the mix during property division, judges will have greater discretion to rule on these matters. Some have likened it to child custody, but for pets. 

Instead of just looking at who purchased the dog, judges will be able to consider a wide range of factors. For instance, which person took the dog on walks? Who was responsible for keeping the cat up-to-date at the veterinarian’s office? Who feeds, protects and spends the most personal time with the animal? Proponents of the new law hope that it will be an improvement, particularly as in the past some judges even resorted to positioning a dog between its two owners and seeing who it ran to first. 

As societal values change, California family law must also adapt. However, this can make things confusing for the average couple who is ready to divorce. Dealing with complex issues like property division, spousal support and more can be difficult for those who are not otherwise familiar with the law or its changes, so seeking expert guidance can be helpful in these situations.