New Law Regarding Pet Custody

Judges in California have long been asked to make decisions about family pets in divorce cases, but as of January 1, they now have some clearer guidance on how to make such decisions. The new law allows for temporary orders, and takes into account who takes care of the animal in making such decisions.

Here is the full text of the new law:

“Section 2605 Family Law Code
2605. (a) The court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may enter an order, prior to the final determination of ownership of a pet animal, to require a party to care for the pet animal. The existence of an order providing for the care of a pet animal during the course of proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties shall not have any impact on the court’s final determination of ownership of the pet animal.
(b) Notwithstanding any other law, including, but not limited to, Section 2550, the court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may assign sole or joint ownership of a pet animal taking into consideration the care of the pet animal.
(c) For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:
(1) “Care” includes, but is not limited to, the prevention of acts of harm or cruelty, as described in Section 597 of the Penal Code, and the provision of food, water, veterinary care, and safe and protected shelter.
(2) “Pet animal” means any animal that is community property and kept as a household pet.”

As a practical matter, the evidence which should be gathered for this kind of hearing is receipts for pet food, veterinary care, vaccination records, city or county licenses, purchase or adoption papers, or any other evidence showing that one party is the primary caretaker of the animal. Testimony is also allowed, so witnesses as to who cares for the animal, such as daily walks, etc., can be used in the determination.

DISCLAIMER: All legal principles quoted are valid as of the date of writing in the State of California. However, you should NEVER base your actions on a legal article, blog, or internet story, as facts in real life are complicated. You should have your case evaluated by an attorney experienced in the area of law needed for your case. In addition, there are often exceptions and potential changes to results that occur due to facts that you may think are trivial or unimportant. This article should not be taken in any way as legal advice on your specific legal matter.

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