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New California law affects pet ownership in divorce

Divorce is an emotional and complicated process as spouses disentangle their lives and debate hot topic issues like child custody and property division. An increasingly common concern that causes angst among divorcing couples is who gets to keep the dog. People have strong bonds with their furry friends and the thought of losing Fido to your ex can be agonizing.

Families have long seen the dog as a family member and now California law agrees. Beginning on Jan 1st, 2019, a judge can consider a pet’s well-being and other factors during a divorce decision. Previously, pets were looked at just like any other piece of property and divided between the two without any special consideration, similar to how the boat or dishes might be.

Factors to be considered

The new law allows a judge to acknowledge the well-being of the pet when making a decision regarding placement, granting either sole ownership or joint ownership. A court now has the discretion to consider:

  • Which of the owners purchased the food and supplies.
  • Which of the owners arranged for the veterinarian care.
  • The ability of the owners to care for the dog.
  • The pet’s safety.


Since decisions regarding pet ownership have been known to get complicated and heated, giving the court the discretion to consider the bonds with its “parents” might help to eliminate some conflict. The end of a marriage is an emotional time, but you can find peace of mind in knowing your dog’s well-being is part of the decision.

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Law Offices of Catherine A. Schwartz
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Riverside, CA 92506

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