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How The New Pet Custody Law Works In California

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[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:

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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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Prenup vs Postnup in California: The Difference

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Gone are the days when getting prenup or postnup seemed a bad omen for the marriage. Currently, about 51% of prospective couples believe prenups and postnups do not mean a lack of faith in marriage but insurance to your finances and emotions in case of divorce.

Unfortunately, the terms prenup and postnup are often used interchangeably while they have different meanings. What is the difference between prenups and postnups, and which applies to your case?

Keep reading for these answers.

Differences Between Prenup and Postnup

Some of the major differences between prenups and postnups are:


Prenups are signed by engaged couples who expect to get married soon. Although the prenup is signed before marriage, it becomes valid after the couple ties the not.

On the other hand, postnups are signed by couples after they are already married. A prenup may be signed days, months or even years after the marriage. The couple decides when the terms of the agreement become effective, which may be a date before or after the signing date. A past date can go back to their wedding date.


A prenup mainly looks at the property owned by the prospective couple before marriage. However, the postnup covers property earned before and after marriage. If the marriage has already lasted for a while, it gets tricky to agree on the community property since it should be divided 50/50. It also has to consider businesses and property that didn’t exist before the marriage.

Validation of the Document

Signing a prenup becomes valid if it meets California’s Uniform Premarital Agreement Act and is signed by both parties. However, a postnup becomes valid after being approved by the court.

Before the court approves the postnup, they need to confirm that each spouse came to the agreement voluntarily and that the agreement is fair to both parties. The court does not validate the document if the agreement does not meet such legal requirements.

Should You Get a Prenup or a Postnup?

If you are yet to say ‘I do’, don’t wait until you are married to get a postnup. Instead, get a prenup since it is easier to acquire than a postnup.

Fortunately, getting a postnup is only complicated but not impossible. Therefore, if you are already married, don’t hesitate to get a postnup as it will come in handy in case you separate or divorce your spouse. Either way, seek legal advice to ensure that you come up with a prenup or postnup that will help you in the future.


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