California Changes Rules on Custody Fights—Over Pets

Judges in divorce cases now have more discretion to decide who gets Fido
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 29, 2018 8:30 AM CDT
If this couple splits, a judge will decide who will be holding the leash.   (Getty/SbytovaMN)

(Newser) – California courts could be going to the dogs—and maybe cats, too—under a new law granting judges authority to settle disagreements over who keeps the family pet in divorce cases the same way they handle child-custody disputes, per the AP. Until now, Fido and Kitty have been considered family property, a status giving them little more standing in a divorce than a family's big-screen TV. Under a bill signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown, pets will still be considered community property, but a judge deciding who gets to keep them will have the discretion of weighing such factors as who feeds them, who takes them to the vet and on walks, and who protects them.

Without the law that goes into effect on Jan. 1, attorneys say judges have often had to get creative in reaching agreements when both sides say they can't bear to part with their pet. Some judges have put the dog between the would-be owners and tried to determine who it liked the best. If a family had two pets, a judge would sometimes suggest splitting them up. The pet battles could be relentless, but now a judge will get to have the definitive say. (This pet owner didn't hesitate for pay $19,000 for surgery on her 17-year-old cat.)


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