California Pet Custody Law

Serving Families Throughout Palm Beach Gardens

Losing a pet through the divorce process may be hard on some animal owners. Pet custody hearings are a growing trend according to a survey by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers.

A new law has been passed in the state of California granting judges the authority to decide on pet custody during divorces. The new law will allow judges to make pet custody decisions similar to how they make child custody decisions. Up until this point, pets in California were considered property, putting them into the same category as cars and electronics. Who got to keep the pet was typically determined by who was stated as the legal owner on the adoption certificate, not necessarily who had the stronger emotional attachment to the animal.

Under the new legislation, pets will still be considered community property but when determining custody, judges will factor in things like who walks the pet, who takes the pet to the veterinarian, etc. Pets will now not just be considered as valued property, but their future well-being will receive more consideration. Judges will be able to assign sole or joint custody of animals based on their discretion.

The law is supported by animal welfare groups such as the San Francisco SPCA, they believe the new law will decrease the number of animals who end up in shelters. The new legislation is opposed by the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists. They argue that divorces face enough significant delays and contention in court, adding new guidelines about animal custody to the mix will create more complicated work and further backlog family court proceedings.

The new law will take effect January 1, 2019. A similar bill is currently being considered in the state of Rhode Island and animal custody laws have already been enacted in the states of Alaska and Illinois.

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John Schutz

John Schutz

Partner at John F. Schutz, P.L.

Representing clients exclusively in family law cases for the past 24 years, Mr. Schutz is widely regarded as a marital and family law expert. He is Board Certified in marital and family law by The Florida Bar. As a Fellow of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), Mr. Schutz is committed to elevating the standards and improving the practice of family law.

John Schutz

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