Often parties wonder what will happen to their pets during a divorce. Will the parties share the pets? Can you negotiate custody of a pet as you would a child? Thus far, pets have always been treated as property in the eyes of the family court. This upset avid pet lovers, but the reality of the situation is that pets typically went where the children went.
However, Jerry Brown has just signed a bill in California granting judges the authority to settle pet custody disputes similarly to how child custody disputes are handled. The law is set to go into effect on January 1, 2019. While many believe this is a positive step forward, and it certainly is as parties will now have rights over their pets, the concern is that it will bring new havoc and discord to family law cases. Nevertheless, the court’s previous stance on pets seemed quite harsh, particularly to those parties who love their pets like humans or like their own children. Pet owners were often indefinitely separated from the pets they loved with absolutely no recourse.
Now, parties can either agree to a visitation plan with their pets or have a Judge decide. This brings up several additional questions, however. Can one party request pet support? Or perhaps the parties will have to share in the cost of pet health insurance? The outcome of this new law remains to be seen and will be far reaching but will prove to make pet owners happy with the family court.