Because California is a community property state, many parties to divorce worry about where their pets will end up after the asset division process.
In many states, courts view domestic animals no differently than bank accounts and furniture during a legal divorce. However, California legislation AB 2274 allows courts to consider pets as more than just shared property.
Your cat’s needs matter
In a divorce involving children, courts must weigh the best interests of the minors when determining custody and visitation. While fur babies are not equal to human children in the eyes of the law, the same principle applies in the property division process. This means judges can consider how the changing family dynamics will affect the animal, and decide based on the following criteria:
- Who provides the cat with love and comfort?
- Which household offers a safer environment?
- Who makes sure the cat has enough food and clean water?
- Who facilitates and pays for veterinary care?
Because divorce cases can take a long time to resolve, courts also have the authority to decide how parties will care for pets during the separation and dissolution process.
Custody and visitation issues
Though courts may take special care to make the right decision for pets in the property division phase, they do not treat pet custody the same as child custody. If you and your ex are amicable enough to parse out a visitation schedule for your feline family member, you have the right to do so via your settlement agreement.
California is the third state to pass laws protecting animal rights during divorce cases, serving as an example for other states on how to handle this important and sensitive issue.