Who Gets the Dog?


When considering a Pasadena divorce, you'll need to decide how to handle the division of everything from your flat screen TV to the china you received for your wedding. One thing you might not have previously considered, however, is who gets custody of the family pet.

In the past, many people considered pets an accessory to their lives. They were nice to have, but not truly a part of the family. Today, attitudes are changing. A growing number of divorce cases involve questions about pet custody because pets are becoming true members of the family.

When you have children with your spouse, the judge will usually keep the pets with the children. This is to provide kids with an element of consistency and stability in what could otherwise be a very traumatic situation for them. If one spouse will be living in rented housing or lacks suitable accommodations for the pet, however, obviously this will have to be taken into consideration.

Currently, there are no laws that recognize visitation rights with animals. This means you and your spouse will need to work out your own arrangements in regards to your beloved pet if you do not have children together. Some couples will even go so far as to buy duplicates of an animal's toys and bedding so he or she can enjoy visitation at both homes. Financial responsibility for a pet is normally worked out the same way as other issues regarding debt and assets from the marriage, assuming that both parties want to continue to maintain custody of the animal.

When couples are unable to reach an agreement on their own regarding pet custody, a judge will make the decision using criteria similar to what you'd see in a case involving child custody. For example, someone who must frequently travel on out-of-town business trips for work would be unlikely to be awarded custody of a dog that is accustomed to being walked and fed by his owner each night. The best interests of the animal would need to be considered.

Previously, pets were not allowed to be protected under domestic violence restraining orders. However, California judges are starting to realize that abusers may threaten to harm animals in order to exert control over their spouse in a divorce proceeding. If this is what you believe your ex is trying to do, seek a Pasadena divorce lawyer with experience dealing in cases that involve this new aspect of matrimonial law.