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What you should know if you are fighting over pet custody

Hundreds of thousands of households across California have pets. And whether that pet is a dog, cat, bird or something else, chances are that it is considered a part of the family. Because of this, determining who gets the pet in a divorce can be a contentious battle.

If you are getting divorced, you should be prepared for some challenges when it comes to figuring out what will happen to your furry, scaly or feathery friend. Most importantly, you must understand that in the eyes of the law, pets are generally considered property, not family members. However, this doesn't mean you have to list your beloved dog as an asset along with your car or furniture.

You and your ex, or the courts, can create a custody plan to determine which person will keep the pet. Oftentimes, the pet will go with one person, though there are cases where divorced spouses share custody.

When deciding where the pet will live, there are a number of factors you will want to consider. These include:

  • Whether you have kids who are attached to the pet
  • Which person is more financially suited for caring for the pet
  • Who owned the pet first, if it belonged to someone before marriage
  • For whom the pet may show a preference
  • Where the pet would live 

Depending on these factors, it may become clear that there is one person who is better suited or situated for taking care of the pet. If both people are similarly positioned and both want to keep the pet, then this is where it might be possible to draw up a schedule similar to a parenting plan.

There is the possibility that working out a custody plan is all but impossible, or that a judge chooses to treat a pet as property eligible for distribution. However, thankfully, pet custody cases are becoming more and more common, making it more likely that you will be able to secure a court-approved custody arrangement.

In California, community property is divided evenly between spouses. That doesn't necessarily make this process any easier, especially when your case involves especially valuable or important property like pets. In order to create or fight for a desirable divorce settlement, you can work with a family law attorney who can help you navigate the challenges of property division and custody.

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