"Who Gets the Dog?" - How Property Is Divided in Divorce

For many divorcing couples, the number one priority is keeping what they believe should be rightfully theirs once the marriage is officially over. The sentiment is understandable; giving a prized possession to someone you are trying to put at a distance is not an enjoyable experience. In California, due to its community property rules, what you get to keep might not be entirely up to you.

Rather than dividing communal property fairly or equitably, California requires it to be divided evenly, or as close to a true 50-50 as possible. Shared finances are easy to split right down the middle, thanks to mathematics the greatest difference will be a penny. Other property is a little trickier. You can’t cut in half a television set and expect it to be worthwhile to anyone. Instead, the court will try to balance its value with other items that you do not get. For example, if you won the nice television, your ex might win the equally nice refrigerator in response.

Who Gets the Dog?

California views pets as property, not children, family members, or dependents. If you didn’t own Fido before you got married – he would be separate property and guaranteed yours if you had – he is going to wind up in the community property pile like anything else you acquired or improved with your spouse. But you clearly won’t go the route of King Solomon and decide that your dog should be split evenly, so what does happen?

Even though your dog is not a child who can be subject to custody rules, you and your ex should take the time to figure out what is in Fido’s best interests. If one of you is moving far away, works longer hours, has less income, and so on, the other spouse should probably be given custody of your pet through an out-of-court agreement. If you can’t or won’t come to your own agreement, the court is going to do it for you, and with a lot less emotion and forethought. With so many divorce cases going through one court in a given amount of time, the judge will likely slap the gavel and assign ownership of your dog based on nothing more than a coin toss when you aren’t looking.

Can I Protect My Communal Property?

It is a bit misleading to believe that family law in California is entirely inflexible. Given the right approach to the situation and the ability to negotiate or mediate skillfully, you could potentially keep certain pieces of your communal property, with or without the court’s judgement. It all starts by backing up your case and claims with a trusted Riverside County family law attorney from Hanson, Gorian, Bradford & Hanich. With more than 50 years of collective legal experience and a focus on client priorities, no matter the size or urgency of their case, we can help you find a comfortable life after divorce. Call 951.687.6003 or contact us online today and ask about how our certified family law specialist can assist you.


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