It is not uncommon for dog owners to consider their pets as members of the family. If this sounds familiar, then you may be concerned as to whether you can keep your dog after the divorce is finalized. California courts generally see pets as community property. As a result, pet ownership after a divorce is not always a black and white issue. Courts may look at multiple factors to determine who will retain ownership of a dog after the divorce. These factors may include:
- Did you provide most of care for the dog? The court may look at which spouse provided the most care and companionship for the dog. For example, the court may consider who took the dog for walks every morning or paid for veterinary expenses when it was sick.
- Who can provide the best care for the dog? It takes a lot of money and personal time to provide adequate care for a dog. For example, the court may consider whether you or your spouse can afford food, visits to a veterinarian and other expenses. The court may consider which spouse is financially, professionally and emotionally able to provide care and companionship for the dog. In some cases, the court may grant ownership of the dog to the spouse who is granted custody of the children.
- Who owned the dog before and during marriage? Dogs are generally considered community property in cases where they were jointly purchased during a marriage. If you owned the dog before your marriage, then you could maintain ownership after the divorce. This could also be true if you were gifted the dog in an inheritance.
- Is there a prenuptial agreement? If a prenuptial agreement specified ownership before the marriage, then the dog would go to the owner specified in the agreement.
What Could Help Me Maintain Ownership of My Dog After a Divorce?
There are other factors that could be relevant to the court’s final decision. If you want to retain ownership of the family dog, then it can help to provide evidence that you provided the majority of its care and companionship during the marriage. Bills for veterinary care, food and toys could help in this regard. Family members and neighbors may also provide testimony that you were the sole person who walked or played with the dog. Even social media photos and posts of you with your pet could become useful.
An attorney can help you compile evidence that may be relevant to your case. Evidence will help your attorney convince the court that you are the most suitable owner.
Unless there is a prenuptial agreement, community property is divided evenly during a divorce. You may have other properties that you wish to keep. The Santa Clara divorce attorneys at the Law Office of Daniel Jensen, LLP. can help you settle property disputes that may arise during your divorce.