I get it. I have a pet…not a dog or a cat but I love my bunny, Reggie, nonetheless. I would be sick if I lost him in some protracted divorce battle. Now, you are getting a divorce and you need to know about pet custody in California. What is going to happen to my pooch? Well, there are some very upsetting points and some points that will give you comfort regarding pet custody in California. Let’s start with the distasteful reality.
“Why not?” you ask….well, because pets are considered chattel, or property. Courts are going to view your pet as any other non-dividable piece of property. That is, they will view the monetary value of your pet as an asset to be given to one party or the other. You don’t have custody rights to a piece of china or a diamond ring, and you don’t have them with your pet either. This also means that the same rules governing separate and community property apply. That is, if one of you owned the pet prior to marriage, he or she will likely be considered the separate property of that party.
I am glad you asked, because through mediation, pet custody can be your reality. That is, within the boundaries of your personally crafted Marital Settlement Agreement, you can arrange a custody and visitation schedule for your pet. When the document is agreed upon and notarized it becomes contractually binding. Even though the courts will rarely enforce pet custody in California, the negotiation process is often enough to bind the parties to their agreement. In the mediation context, there are likely to be many negotiated points on both sides. After a lengthy mediation process, both parties are generally loath to unwind the document they both worked hard to create. There is power in this hard work and that can only benefit you when you reach a firm decision about pet custody.
So…if you have a pet, and are considering divorce, the better option for a chance of pet custody in California is to mediate. That way, you know you will have the future you create…including your beloved pet.