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Who Keeps Fido? Examining California’s New Pet Custody Law

At the beginning of 2019, California updated its laws regarding pet ownership – or pet custody – in a messy divorce. Before the legal update, the court saw pets like property, falling under either separate or community property rules just like a car, television, or dining room set. Now, a judge’s discretion gets final say in who gets to keep Fido and Fluffy after a divorce concludes, assuming the divorcing couple cannot decide that for themselves.

In the updated Family Code Section 2605, it states clearly:

  • “Pet animal” means any animal that is community property and kept as a household pet.
  • And that the court may assign sole or joint ownership of a pet animal taking into consideration the care of the pet animal.

This change is considered a big win among pet owners of California who see their critters less like pets and more like family members. Giving a judge the power to rule in a pet’s best interests in akin to the line of thinking in child custody and parental rights cases. For example, if your dog is obviously unhappy to be alone with your ex-spouse but you bought your dog together and while married, the court can see your dog’s unhappiness and assign you full pet ownership or custody.

(You can view a full 13 CBS Sacramento article about this legal change in California by clicking here.)

Should Ohio Adopt a Similar Pet Custody Rule?

Here at Weis Law Group, we believe it would be more than beneficial for Ohio to enact a legal update that lets the court see pets of a divorce as California does now. Few people ever really want to say goodbye to their furry friends in a divorce, even if their pet clearly prefers their spouse over them. This can and does often make for some frustrating and heartbreaking divorces throughout Ohio each year. Allowing a court to step in, judge the situation based on what appears to be the animal’s preference, and rule ownership as fair as can be would help eliminate these concerns and keep happy pets happy.

Do you need help fighting for ownership of your pet in your divorce? Call (614) 428-0266 to request an initial consultation with our attorneys. From our offices based in Columbus, we proudly serve clients all around Ohio with all sorts of difficult family law cases.

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