Pets are much more than simple possessions – they are vital members of many families. Just like custody battles involving children, fights on who gets the pet in divorce are fraught with emotions.

And when one party gets custody, the other might wonder what happens to their attachment to the pet. In an evolving legal era, California has realized that pets aren’t random property.

Recent amendments in law have made it easier for divorcing couples to get a fair arrangement when they separate. Knowledgeable Orange County family law attorneys can guide you on getting visitation rights.

What are the Pet Laws in California Like?

Previously, pets were treated as property in a California divorce. Thus, they were divided like any other property – like cars, televisions, or family china set gifted at the wedding. However, the new law that took effect on January 1, 2019, changed all of that.

The legislation added pets to the California Family Code. Now, pet matters can be discussed in the proceedings for dissolution of marriage or legal separation. The judge can give temporary orders and later a final determination regarding custody and visitation of a pet.

What are the Considerations for Awarding Pet Custody and Visitation?

The court can either assign sole or joint custody of a family pet. In joint custody, the pet gets a chance to enjoy the companionship of both parties after separation or divorce. Alternatively, one party could get sole custody while the other party gets visitation rights. This happens when:

  • One party moves to an apartment with no backyard space
  • The other party remains in the marital home, where there is a yard
  • The pet is already more comfortable in the marital home

It might be more appropriate for the pet to stay in a home where they are more comfortable. A pet custody attorney in California can advise on a favorable arrangement.

Who Decides on Matters of Pet Custody and Visitation?

Custody and visitation matters in divorce are easier when the parties agree independently. But when there are conflicting issues, mediation would facilitate you two reaching an agreement. A pet custody attorney in California can represent you in the session to ensure that your interests are prioritized.

If you fail to agree among yourselves or through mediation, the judge will have to make a ruling. Some of the factors that judges evaluate in their decision making include:

  • The best interest of the dog, such as whose company the dog prefers more
  • If seeing the dog less often will affect the human children in either parent’s custody
  • Any history of animal abuse
  • The person that spends time with the dog
  • The person that pays for the day-to-day pet care, for instance, vet bills, daycare, and food
  • The person that paid for the pet
  • The person that has spent less money and time with the pet is more likely to get visitation rights.

How Can an Attorney Help Me?

Both you and your soon-to-be-ex are attached differently to the family pet. However, your ex might make allegations that prevent you from getting visitation time with the pet. But a pet custody attorney in California can defend you and challenge those arguments.

A skilled attorney can make sure that you reach a fair resolution for everyone. They might have to gather and present evidence in court when negotiations fail. Just because your ex-spouse bought the pet doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t get visitation.

How Can I Help the Pet Adopt Better During Visitation?

Moving a pet around might distress them at first, but if you do it right, it might work just fine. First, it is essential to keep track of your agreed-upon arrangement and have a pet-sitter on call. Here are other things you could do:

  • Be consistent with timing for the pets to know what to expect and when to expect it
  • Bring along familiar objects like beddings and toys for easy adjustment
  • Make sure that both households call the dog the same name
  • Use the same amount and types of foods in the same households
  • Use the same types of rewards for good behavior
  • Similar training, such as keeping pets off the couch in both households

It might be easier to convince the judge to grant you visitation rights if you show that you have already figured out how to make it seamless.

Must I File a Separate Pet Visitation Petition in Orange County?

Only unmarried partners are required to file a fresh petition for their pets. But if you file for divorce, the issue of pets is usually addressed in the same petition. The court will likely grant temporary custody to one party and temporary visitation to the other.

Note that the temporary orders might not determine the case’s final outcome. The evidence you bring forth at the hearing to support your claim might determine the final outcome.

What Can I Expect on the Hearing Date?

On the hearing day, both you and your soon-to-be-ex get a chance to tell your story to the judge. You may want to avoid interrupting your ex when they are talking. Luckily, your attorney might get an opportunity to cross-examine their witnesses.

At the end of that session, the judge might read their verbal verdict. And in a few days, the written order will be ready. If you feel like the judgment is unfair, you can speak to a pet custody attorney in California regarding an appeal.

Attorneys Giving You and Your Family Skilled Legal Representation

While the marriage could be over, your relationship with the family pet might not be over. And a busy schedule should not rob you of a continued relationship with the other human and non-human members of your family.

An attorney at Sarieh Law Offices can examine your new arrangement and fight for visitation with your pet. Kindly speak to us today to discuss what is best for you and the cat or dog you love.