According to the ancient tale about the Judgment of King Solomon, the wise
Israeli king was tasked with resolving a dispute between two women claiming
to be the mother of an infant child. The king proposed a grim solution:
to cut the baby in half with a sword.
One of the women did not protest the king’s ruling, satisfied knowing
that no one could have the baby if she could not. But, the other woman
begged the king not to kill the child, offering to surrender him to her
adversary. From this response, King Solomon concluded that a true mother
would give up her child if it meant sparing his life.
This story isn’t too far from the actual dynamics of a divorce case.
Sometimes divorcing spouses can get so caught up in fighting the opposing
party that they lose sight of what’s important. California’s
child custody laws were designed to help prevent a minor child’s
welfare from becoming a casualty in a raging war between estranged spouses.
But until recently, California did not offer comparable legal protections
for those other tiny members of a family: the household pet. The California
legislature passed a law that went into effect on New Year’s day,
adding a section to the state’s family code allowing courts to take
a pet animal’s well being into consideration when dividing community property.
California Law for Pet Animals in Divorces Before 2019
Community property principles govern property disputes in California divorce
cases. Under California community property law, both spouses in a divorce
case have an equal interest in all the property they acquired during their
marriage and which does not constitute the separate property of one spouse.
California law classified pet animals as personal property capable of inclusion
into the marriage’s community estate. As a result, pet animals were
relegated to just another line item on the property declaration sheet
over which the parties could wage war. Courts attempted to resolve property
disputes over family pets by taking a page out of the child custody book
on parental time-sharing arrangements and ordered the parties to split
their time with the pet. In extreme cases, a court might order the sale
of a pet, subsequently directing the parties to split the proceeds between
California Family Code Section 2605
Effective January 1, 2019, California Family Code, Section 2605 authorized
judges to order a party to care for a pet animal during divorce proceedings.
The new law also allows the parties to make a request “to assign
sole or joint ownership of a pet animal, taking into consideration the
care of the pet animal.” Under Section 2605, “care”
is defined as “the provision of food, water, veterinary care, and
safe and protected shelter” including the prevention of animal cruelty
The California State Assembly voted in favor of adding Section 2605 to
the Family Code after Assemblymember Bill Quirk introduced it to the legislature
as Assembly Bill (AB) 2274, with the following statement:
“When this bill becomes law, courts will view pet ownership differently,
and pets will legally be more than just property. Courts should award
custody on what is best for the animal. Although my little Luna has a
happy home, I am sure she is relieved to know I am working on this measure
to help her furry friends that may be in homes with different circumstances.
It is clear we need to alter our view of pet safety and animal welfare.”
Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich: Trusted Names in Legal Advocacy
Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich we take special care in staying up-to-date on legal developments in California
family law that may impact your rights and options in a divorce proceeding.
We take pride in delivering quality legal advice and advocacy to the residents
and families of Southern California to help ensure their best interests
To schedule a free consultation about your case, call Hanson, Gorian, Bradford
& Hanich at (951) 506-6654 or
visit us online and complete the request form.