California couples who are going through a divorce may be worried about more than just child custody, spousal support and property division. Many people have pets that they consider to be part of the family. When a couple separates, there is often conflict over who gets to keep the animal. While in the past, pets may have been treated by the court as property, cultural changes have shifted how courts treat animal companions. Nowadays, a judge may treat an animal more like a human child and base decisions on what is in the best interest of the pet.
While people have always had strong affection for their pets, new understandings of animals has altered how they are perceived and treated. It is understood that animals have emotions and that their welfare is a reasonable concern of both the humans who care for them as well as those in legal authority. As a result, when judges consider property division in a divorce case, decisions regarding the pets may be considered separately.
Instead, a judge may take into consideration the relationship that the animal has with each spouse. To make things easier for the pet, the judge may award custody to the spouse who has the stronger relationship with the animal or who is in a better position to provide a safe home, socialization and veterinary care.
Issues such as these can make divorce confusing and stressful for many people. In some cases, talking to an experienced divorce lawyer may assist in reducing the stress. An attorney may be able to review a client's relationship with their pet and may be able to develop a strong case for custody. The attorney may also be able to negotiate a settlement that meets the needs of both spouses as well as the pet.