Numerous elements of divorce can cause problems and lead to bitter fights. Divorcing spouses might argue over who keeps the house or where the children will live. There could be arguments over spousal support and retirement plans, as well. Fights are not limited to these major elements, either.
In many cases, one of the most contentious issues that pit spouses against each other is what will happen to a family pet or other animal. Not only are these issues highly emotional, they can also be legally complicated, as many courts consider pets to be personal property eligible for division.
With this in mind, it can be crucial for pet parents to attempt to resolve pet ownership on their own terms and outside of court. To do this, think about the following factors:
- Should the pet stay with the children? Keeping a pet with the children can help both the animal and the children adapt a little better during a difficult situation.
- Who was the primary caregiver during the marriage? If one person consistently fed, bathed, exercised and otherwise cared for the pet more than the other person did, it could in the animal's best interest to stay with that person.
- Did one of you have the pet before getting married? If you both are fairly equal in terms of the contributions and support you made to an animal during a marriage, initial ownership could be the determining factor.
- Who can take better care of the animal? Living situation and availability can play a significant role in who may be a better care provider for a pet, so consider who has the time, space and resources to devote to the animal.
- Is it feasible to share custody? For some people, it is a possibility to share custody of a pet. You might be able to agree to switching weeks or alternating custody in accordance with your children's custody plan. Whether this is an option or not depends on your specific situation.
Pet custody is not an uncommon issue in California divorces, but it can be a contentious one. As such, it can be important to take this matter seriously and examine the possible options with an attorney.