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Who gets the dog in a California divorce?

On Behalf of | May 13, 2023 | divorce

If you’ll be counted among California parents who are parting ways with their spouses this year, you’ll also join the ranks of those who are trying to negotiate fair settlements. Your children, of course, are a top priority. Where will they live? Can they keep attending the same school? Which parent will have decision-making authority? These are important issues, in addition to those regarding financial provisions, that must be resolved before the court can issue a divorce decree.  

An issue that has stirred controversy in recent years is how should the court determine which spouse gets the family dog. In the past, deciding which spouse gets the dog in a divorce was addressed during property division proceedings. In recent times, however, many California judges have been handling dog issues more like custody cases.  

The judge overseeing your divorce will consider your dog’s well-being 

If you never really had anything to do with your family’s dog during marriage—never fed it, took it for walks, groomed it, played with it, etc., a judge might find it peculiar that you’d seek full ownership of the animal. On the contrary, if you took on most or all pet care responsibilities during your marriage, you might have a good chance of getting the dog after divorce. 

Some people sign a petnup 

Another increasing trend regarding a divorce between spouses who own a dog is to sign an agreement that spells out how care is to be provided. This is known as “signing a petnup.” Think of it like a prenuptial agreement, except that it is particularly geared toward pet care after divorce. 

Will you and your ex be living in different states? 

Travel arrangements might be relevant to your divorce settlement if you and your ex are going to live states away from each other. Will the dog be shipped back and forth between households? Will it live with one of you full time? Also, is it best for your dog to reside in the same household as your children? 

Divorce is never a one-size-fits-all situation. The good news is that you and your ex can peacefully discuss the important topics and devise an agreement, then seek the court’s approval. Such situations may be stressful, but they don’t have to ruin your life, especially if you and your former spouse are willing to cooperate and compromise to come up with a plan that is fair and agreeable to everyone involved.