Dion Law Group helps divorce clients navigate the new California “pet custody” law, Family Code 2605.
New 2019 California law deals with the custody of pets in divorce, and the Dion Law Group helps clients in the midst of a divorce navigate this difficult law. “The recent change in the law,” said attorney Emily Robinson, who focuses on Family Law for Dion Law Group, “is that California Family Code 2605 now provides for the court to award a pet to one party and order that party to take care of the pet. The court can also order joint custody of the pet.”
Prior to the change in law, the judge divided property, including a household pet, by worth. A pet was treated like a commodity and not an emotional attachment. “Now they look at it as who can care for the pet better or should the dog go back and forth, etc.,” noted Robinson. “Before animals were just treated like property. This is far better for pet owners; however, it will also increase litigation costs significantly.”
Now pet owners will be able to fight for their pets in similar ways as their children. “Why the new change?” Robinson asked rhetorically. “I think it’s because California is pretty progressive, so it was surprising they didn't have this law in place. Other states have done this prior to California. I think it was just kind of a sign of the times.”
Robinson, who has also been a member of the Animal Legal Defense Fund, went on to say, “I think people look at it as putting the pets on the level of children, but in reality, it is a small section of the family code, so they are not on the same level as litigation for children.”
Dion Law Group suggests that it is better to settle issues of pet custody outside of court. “The judge sees you for five minutes and doesn't know you and your family, so it is never ideal,” Robinson explained. “It is better to settle outside of family court, but now the law offers something you can discuss in terms of custody. Now you have that leverage.”
When it comes to preparing for this type of situation there is no real checklist. “Right now,” Robinson added, “I tell my clients to consider, 1) who is the pet with more; 2) who makes the big decisions for the pet; and 3) who pays for the pet?”
There are significant considerations, such as where does the pet go if children in the marriage are also under joint custody? “Typical arrangements I like to make include if there are children, the pet goes back and forth with children, so the children always get the pet,” Robinson stated.
There are other considerations to navigate as well. “Joint custody, where the pet goes with each on alternating weeks, joint decision making when it’s time to make important decisions, or expensive things like surgery. If both people want the pet and have a schedule where the pet won't be alone for long periods of time,” Robinson concluded, “I typically suggest shared custody of some kind.”
About Dion Law Group APLC
The Dion Law Group focuses on divorce, domestic violence, support, child custody, criminal defense, DUI defense, juvenile law, consumer debt, firearm law, wills, trusts, guardianships and adoptions. The firm has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau. For more information, please (805) 497-7474, or visit www.dionlawgroup.com. The law office is located at 660 Hampshire Road, Suite 216, Westlake Village, CA 91361.
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