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Kathy Minella

How The New Pet Custody Law Works In California

pet custody law dog sleeping

[This article has been updated for 2023 since it’s original publish date in 2019]

Most people consider their pet a part of the family, so it’s no surprise there are often disputes about who gets the pet when a couple splits up.

In January 2019, a new California law changed the way pet custody is handled in divorce cases. This new law gives judges the power to consider the care and the best interest of the pet (or companion animal) when making decisions in separation or divorce matters

This is how your pet can affect your divorce in 2023:

Watch Kathy Explain More About It

Pets Are No Longer Just Physical Property

Up until the new law was enacted, California courts treated pets like other physical, inanimate property such as furniture, cars, and other belongings. The family dog, cat, or another pet would be considered a part of the property to be divided when the marriage ended.

Often judges would base their decision on which party purchased or adopted the animal. Judges had wide discretion in determining where the pet would be best placed or in arranging visitation schedules. The legal system, however, offered no official guidance.

Up until this year, only Alaska and Illinois had similar legislation. With the signing of AB2274, California courts must now view pet ownership differently from other possessions.

Putting a Pet First

Courts now have a much clearer direction and will award custody of a pet based on what is deemed best for the animal. They’re also able to create shared custody agreements and may enter orders that require one party to care for a pet prior to final ownership determination.

Pets are still technically classified as personal property, but the new law was crafted to reflect how most people view their pets. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblymember Bill Quirk, was inspired to introduce the bill based in part on his experience rescuing a dog.

The original bill had stronger language, for example, “requiring” rather than “authorizing” courts to act in the pet’s best interests. 

Changes notwithstanding, California’s law is groundbreaking in that it provides courts with much-needed guidance in distinguishing pets from other forms of property. 

Treating Animals Fairly

Family pet custody battles have been on the rise.

While they reflect a pet’s important role in the family, they’ve also added conflict to an often already stressful situation. If you’re involved in a custody case involving a family pet, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, which ranked California #3 in the nation for its animal protection laws, may provide an amicus brief

Before getting into a lengthy, expensive battle over the family pet, remember that California’s law does not require a judge to make a conclusion, it merely gives guidance on what can be used to determine such situations.

Final Thoughts

Before this law was enacted, pets were simply treated as any other inanimate piece of property such as a TV or a dining room table. Now, there are much clearer guidelines as to how custody of a pet will be handled and is based upon what the court deems as best for the animal.

For those who have a family pet, this new law may help bring some peace-of-mind as they navigate the already-stressful divorce process.


If you’re concerned about what may happen to your pet during a legal separation or divorce, consulting with an experienced family law attorney who understands the issue and new ruling can help alleviate your worries.



[image courtesy of pexels]

How To Handle Common Co-Parenting Issues


Parenting is challenging under any circumstances, but if you’re co-parenting with an uncooperative former spouse, conflicts that were molehills during your marriage suddenly become mountains. In an ideal world, divorced parents develop a direct line of communication with each other on childcare issues, but sometimes lingering resentments or a plain old inability to get along can bring cooperation to a screeching halt. Co-parenting is difficult, here are some suggestions on handling co-parenting complications.

What Are The Most Common Co-Parenting Issues in California?


Divorce creates an ambiguous relationship in your family, especially when a child is involved. In California, the judge has the final decision about your child’s custody but will usually approve the arrangements you have agreed on with your partner. While co-parenting provides several benefits, parents in California face issues that need to be handled professionally to maintain a healthy post-divorce family. 

Here are some of the most common co-parenting issues in California.

1.Different Parenting Styles

Like in married couples, differences in parenting styles are common among co-parenting parents. The four main types of parenting include:

  • Authoritative parenting
  • Neglectful parenting
  • Authoritarian parenting
  • Laid-back parenting

Poor parenting will make you lose custody of your child or visitation rights. Instead of being defensive about your parenting style when your partner raises concern, seek help from a professional counselor to determine if you are on the right track or not.

2.In-Consistent Communication

Poor, inconsistent, unclear, or absent communication is another common co-parenting issue in California. Separation often leads to parents avoiding each other, which ends up hurting their communication badly. 

Making joint decisions about your child’s welfare will be a problem without proper communication, resulting in the child’s needs not being met. Other effects of inconsistent communication include lack of cooperation, missed appointments and being left out of your child’s progress. 

If your partner is deliberately causing the lack of proper communication, it is better to seek the services of a lawyer.

3.Emotional Instability

Emotional instability manifests in many ways, including lashing out verbally or physically, being unpredictable, or withdrawing from the relationship altogether. This can be incredibly difficult to deal with, especially if you have to co-parent with your ex-partner. If you feel like they might lash out at you or the child, seek restraining orders while your partner gets help coping with the divorce.

Bottom Line


Both parents have a say in deciding what is best for the child’s development and upbringing. There can be disputes about various issues, including how to discipline the child, when to get notified about anything concerning the child, and even what school to send the child to. When these disagreements occur, it may be best to contact an attorney specializing in family law to help you negotiate these problematic issues with your co-parent.

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How Do Prenups Work in California? When Are They Not Valid?

Prenuptial agreements (prenups) are not always a fun topic of conversation with your soon to be spouse. Discussing divorce before you even get married is not ideal as when you look at your fiancee, the last thing you see is your future ex-spouse.

However, with the current divorce rate in California being above 50%, discussing what happens to your assets in case you do end up divorced should be considered a responsible conversation. It is better to have a financial discussion when you are getting along, rather than during acrimony when feelings are emotional. A prenup can drastically ease your divorce process and save you both a ton of money and time.

To get the most from a prenup you must understand how they work and what is needed for them to be enforceable.

How Do Prenups Work in California?

Prenups in California are dictated by California’s Uniform Premarital Agreement Act (UPAA). According to this act, a prenup is an agreement between prospective spouses dictating what happens to their present assets and future assets after they become married. California is a community property state, so without a prenup, everything earned during marriage is considered joint and will be split.

A prenup allows you to alter California law and divide your assets as you want, which may mean not equally.

The property included in a prenup may include financial interests, income, real estate or debts. For a prenup to be valid, the parties to the agreement must provide full disclosure of assets to each other. They both must be fully informed about what the other has before signing. This would include all property and all debts, you should be fully aware of the financial situation of your soon to be spouse.

Additionally, each spouse MUST have at least seven days to review the final draft before signing and both parties MUST be represented by their own attorney. If the time period is less than seven days from when the document is received and when it is signed, it can be deemed unenforceable. Both parties must have their own independent counsel so it can be deemed they had full knowledge when signing.

What To and Not To Include In a Prenup

A prenup generally includes language about the division of finances. For example, what happens if one owns a house before marriage and they plan on living in the house after marriage and using marital income to pay the mortgage. This is a perfect situation to identify in a prenup. It will also include what happens it debt is accrued during marriage. Some people will include a waiver of inheritance rights if they have children from another marriage. It is truly up to you on what you want the prenup to include.

However, the prenup cannot include any provisions regarding child custody or child support. These would be deemed unenforceable provisions.

What Can Make a Prenup Invalid?

A prenup becomes invalid if it does not follow the requirements of the UPAA. For instance, if one spouse signed the prenup under duress without having full knowledge of the assets and debts of their partner, or being forced to sign an agreement without an attorney, the prenup can be deemed invalid. The prenup can also be deemed invalid if a family law judge finds the agreement is unfair.

When a prenup becomes invalid, it is not enforced by the court during a divorce. Your divorce proceedings continue as they would without a prenup.

Get Legal Advice About Your Prenup

Although you and your fiancee are on the same page on how to go about the prenup, it is always advisable to get legal advice from a reliable lawyer. The lawyer will explain all the legal jargon, helping you avoid mistakes. Additionally, you will weigh all the pros and cons together and come up with the best plans for your future.

If you’re in need of legal advice or consultation, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 619.289.7948