Dividing assets in a divorce is something that often requires the court to step in because couples cannot make the decisions on their own. The situation gets complicated when the property you are disagreeing over is a pet. In the past, pets fell into the category of property and were just like any other asset.

A new law recognizes the issues with categorizing pets as property. According to CBS Sacramento, in California, courts can assign custody in a similar manner to how they do with children.

Past procedure

Prior to the change in the law, courts would have to decide pet custody by looking at ownership. If you owned the pet prior to your marriage, then the court treated it as separate property. It did not consider who cared for the animal or the emotional bonds you each have with it.

However, animals are living beings who require care and attention that other property does not. There is a relationship between the pet and the family that the law should not ignore, and judges agreed with this. They lacked legal guidance on how to handle pet custody, so they used their own creativity to decide such issues, which made for an inconsistent approach.

Current procedure

With the new law, the court will decide whether you will share custody or if one of you will have sole custody. Temporary custody is also an option, which the court awards during the proceedings until the final ruling. In considering custody issues, the court will look at all aspects of the pet’s care and relationships with family members.