Pets are often considered a member of the family, and deciding who gets the family pet in a divorce can be a very tough process. In most cases, pets are treated just like all other marital property, since pets are considered personal property under California state property laws.
It is possible to specifically authorize “pet visitation” rights in a California divorce.
However, many pets have been the cornerstone of their owner’s lawsuits challenging the longstanding view of pets in a divorce proceeding. In a divorce settlement that includes “visitation” or “custody” rights, it’s often the spouse that did not receive the pet that files the suit.
California doesn’t have any special laws on how to treat pets in a divorce as anything other than personal property, but it is possible to specifically authorize “pet visitation” rights in a California divorce. Many courts are also willing to entertain such requests, and recent legislation has given pets and pet owners more rights.
Restraining Orders for Pets?
Pet owners can seek restraining orders that allow them immediate control and possession of their pet.
Family Code 6320 dictates that family law and domestic violence courts are allowed to make restraining orders that will protect your pet. The restraining order could include one or more of the following:
- You can obtain an ex parte (or emergency) restraining order to allow one person control of the pet, and prevent any contact from the other partner in question.
- Issuance of an ex parte order (in an emergency situation)
- If justifiable cause is shown, the pet’s exclusive care, possession or control can be awarded to the petitioner, whether the animal belongs to the family or a minor child in the home.
- Authorizing a “stay away” from the animal to the person in question
Forbid the respondent from taking transferring, encumbering, concealing, molesting, striking, threatening, harming, or otherwise disposing of the animal.
Pets are often important members of your family, and they should be treated as more than just a piece of property. Bohm Wildish & Matsen understands and empathizes with the role pets play in you and your family’s life, so give them a call today.