Pet custody is going to California

Pet custody is closer to becoming a reality after California passed a law making pets community property but letting judges decide who gets to keep them. What is Florida’s law on pet custody?

Pet Custody

California Dreaming

All the leaves are brown, and the sky may be grey, but California just began a new era for how pets are treated after a divorce. A new law passed on Thursday makes sure pets are seen as more than just property when it comes time to split up assets in a divorce.

According to the San Diego Tribune, Assembly Bill 2274 will ensure care of a pet is taken into consideration both while divorce proceedings are underway and after they’re made official.

With the new law, a person can petition the court for sole or joint ownership based on care of the pet, which is defined to include “prevention of acts of harm or cruelty” and “the provision of food, water, veterinary care and safe and protected shelter.”

The law also adds a new ability for a person in the divorce to request an order that would require one person in the marriage to care for the pet prior to the divorce becoming final.

Florida Pet Custody

I’ve written on the development of pet custody cases and statutes before. Pet custody cases are becoming more and more prevalent around the country. That is because state lawmakers and advocacy groups are promoting the notion that the legal system should act in the best interests of animals.

Pets are becoming a recognized part of the family. About 15 years ago, states began to allow people to leave their estates to care for their pets. Recently, courts have gone so far as to award shared custody, visitation and even alimony payments to pet owners.

Florida doesn’t have pet custody or visitation laws. Florida courts are already overwhelmed with the supervision of custody, visitation, and support matters related to the protection of children.

Accordingly, Florida courts have not or cannot undertake the same responsibility as to animals.

I Remember California

The law in California used to be like Florida, viewing pets as property to be argued over in the separation of assets.

“There is nothing in statute directing judges to treat a pet differently from any other type of property we own, I know that owners view their pets as more than just property. They are part of our family, and their care needs to be a consideration during divorce proceedings.”

Now, rather than seen as a valued property item or dollar amount to be divided, the well-being of the pet will get more consideration.

California Calling

Supporters of the law hope the new law will lead to fewer homeless animals. But not everyone is happy. The Association of Certified Family Law Specialists opposed it, saying divorces already face significant delays and issues of contention in court, especially when it comes to children.

“By adding in sole or joint ownership of pet animals as a determination courts can make in divorce proceedings, the already backlogged family court proceedings may become even more delayed as judges consider the myriad factors that come into play when making decisions about community property division and child custody.”

The San Diego Tribune article is here.