Couples have been mercilessly fighting over pets in courts for decades. In recent years, California lawmakers have made some major changes to how animals are shared and divided between divorcing couples. While following along below, keep in mind that the California laws that have been passed are not obligatory, meaning judges still have the authority to call these cases as they see fit.
The Best Interest
At the start of 2019 California legal experts had to begin adjusting the way they handled pets and divorce in court due to a newly passed law. In late 2018 NBC reported on the new law saying, “The measure provides judges with the power to consider what’s in the best interests of the animal in divorce cases, instead of treating them the way they’ve been treated by courts in the past — as physical property.”
This means judges should consider what’s in the best interests of the animal, very similarly to how child custody cases are resolved in court. It’s up to judicial discretion to create a shared custody agreement by taking into consideration factors like who walks, feeds and plays with the pet when deciding who the animal should live with and when.
Service Animals and Emotional Support Animals
As of present emotional support animals don’t qualify as service animals in the legal system and are not protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Also, under the ADA only dogs can legally be considered service animals, with a rare exception only for miniature horses.
In a California divorce case service animals will go on to continue living with the individual that the animal was initially placed with for medical reasons. However, since ‘emotional support’ animals are not typically recognized as legitimate by the courts, each individual judge will have to establish custody agreements based on their personal discretion which can vary case to case.
If you or someone you know is going through divorce with pets call on the local pros of Orange County Family Law Richard E. Young & Associates for help. We are the easiest law firm to work with in the county and have an A+ rating among our local community. Our team specializes in divorce and family law including custody, trusts, visitation, domestic violence, bankruptcy and much more!