Disclaimer: This article does not constitute legal advice. If you have any questions about your individual situation it is best to seek the advice of an experienced legal professional.
In many places, when you get divorced, a pet is treated by the law as if it were marital “property.” Increasingly, however, the law acknowledges that animals are autonomous beings just like us who have their own needs and interests. When it comes to divorce, this means an animal is no longer treated as a possession, the “best interests” of the animal are considered, as with a child.
California formalized its law about companion animals in divorce in 2018. Illinois and Alaska have similar but less specific laws on the books. Spain’s national parliament has passed a law that protects the best interests of pets in divorce. The Spanish laws acknowledge that animals are “sensitive beings.” In California, the law gives judges the power to make decisions about pets based on a number of criteria. If you love your pet and are getting a divorce in California, it’s important to be proactive about any pet custody decisions in your divorce. If you can’t agree on what to do about your pet, a judge could make these decisions for you.
In a California divorce, parties can petition for custody of the pet, and the judge can decide sole or joint custody of the pet based on who cared for the pet the most (who fed the animal its meals, or who walked the dog), or who purchased the pet and/or spent most on pet care. If you love your pet but historically have not contributed to pet care as much as your spouse, you might find yourself helpless to make your case for why the pet should spend more time with you.
In divorce mediation you can negotiate about how to care for your pet without the interference of a judge. Joint pet custody is not always practical in all cases, but there are many ways people can remain in an animal’s life. Problems you may face and solutions you can find in mediation include:
- Relocation or distance between locations – San Diego couples may be separated by traffic and transport as much as distance. If transporting your pet between houses regularly would be impractical, many solutions can be found, such as keeping the pet for longer periods of time, or taking the dog for walks, even if the animal doesn’t live with you.
- Medical needs of the animal and medical bills – Pets can be expensive, and one spouse may have less money to spend on a pet. Ex-spouses who love their pet may want to find a way to share the ongoing costs of keeping the pet healthy, or compensate financially for care (looking after the pet and ensuring the pet has medications).
- Pet unfriendly facilities – Ex spouses may be limited by condo rules and less than pet friendly living situations. Again compromises may be found in partial custody or visits with the pet (if your relationship with your ex is good).
Divorce mediation is a process that empowers the people getting a divorce to make mutually beneficial decisions that are in the best interests of their child or pet. At Divorce Options San Diego we have a unique skillset which includes working on conflicts involving the interests of non-human animals. We have legal, financial and psychoanalytical expertise that equips us to assist with decision-making at all levels of a divorce. We support conflict-free healthy separations in which children and pets are never treated us as collateral in a conflict, but as beings with dignity whose needs are considered.
Our Services and How We Can Help
At Divorce Options San Diego, we are highly qualified professional mediators and certified financial planners with psychoanalytical expertise. Our mediators are caring, educated professionals who build divorce around conflict resolution, closure and practical solutions for your future life, even beyond divorce. When considering divorce many people assume they are facing into an expensive battle, expecting a “win-lose” outcome and numerous court appearances. At Divorce Options San Diego we reframe divorce as an opportunity to generate creative, optimized solutions for your future. We never litigate. We do not do adversarial work and we do not ever represent one spouse against another. We empower divorcing spouses to own their divorce and craft sustainable, effective mutual agreements that will last long after the divorce is finalized. We are a one-stop shop providing a bundle of essential divorce services, from paperwork, court documents and financial analysis, through divorce transition coaching, life coaching and interior design. The mediators at Divorce Options San Diego are all certified financial planners who apply thorough financial analysis to your divorce to achieve an optimized result that will cover all aspects of your financial situation and plan for the long-term welfare of everyone in the family. We help you draft settlement agreements that are fully legally compliant and take into account the needs of the family and any pets. We make the paperwork part of the divorce as efficient as possible so you can move on with your lives. In most cases you won’t have to hire a divorce attorney or ever have to appear before a judge or visit a courtroom to finalize the divorce. Many of our successful resolutions have occurred even when one or both of the parties thought that mediation wouldn’t work in their particular case. Mediation is a 100 percent confidential process, so you can be assured your divorce will be handled with care and privacy. At Divorce Options San Diego we emphasize an efficient, caring process that leaves out no detail relevant to your emotional, financial or legal situation. This leaves you free to get on with your life and care for your kids and yourself both during and after your divorce.
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