During the shelter in place requirements we have all been spending a bit more time with our beloved pet or pets. We see how much light they bring to our days and it raises the question of how we deal with pet custody in a divorce.
Not long ago, pets were considered simply property to be divided incident to the divorce. When deciding with whom the pet should live courts would take into account primarily the financial responsibility of the pet, like who paid the adoption fee and the veterinarian bills. Since January 1, 2019 California law has agreed that pets are more than property and has codified a custody standard for deciding with whom and where the pets will reside. Like with children, the law takes into account the best interest of the pet. Because she is more than property, she is a companion.
At the present, many courthouses are closed temporarily or are working on a limited basis. As a result, many cases that do not involve emergencies or domestic violence are put to the back of the line. With couples ready to move on with their lives and work out an agreement for their pets, it is worth considering non court options to expedite the process.
In collaborative divorce you can work outside the confines of the courtroom to come up with a satisfactory pet custody arrangement. You will each have your own attorney and divorce coach, and you will share a financial neutral. These professionals can help you come to a full agreement that can then be submitted to the court without ever setting foot inside the courthouse.
You will have the opportunity to sit down in a meeting to discuss what is best for your pets and how exchanges might be handled, much like you would with children. Some couples decide to share the pets on a weekly or monthly basis; others prefer to exchange the pets at the same time as the children. Still others decide that one party should have the cat while the other has the rabbit. The advantage of deciding this in collaborative divorce is that you and your spouse are the ones who know your pets best and can make informed decisions about what is in their best interest.