Ownership Of Pets Can Be Decided In California Courts, Will Ohio Be Next In Pet Custody Disputes?
In California and Ohio, as in most states, pets are considered personal property by law. But thanks to a new law in California, divorce disputes over “custody” of dogs and cats will be decided in a similar manner as are child custody disputes. Regardless of the emotional attachment between a pet and its owner, Courts typically don’t give more status to a pet than say to a computer or television.
Under A.B. 2274, signed last week by Governor Jerry Brown, pets will still be considered community property but now a judge deciding ”custody” will have the discretion of weighing such factors as who feeds and walks them, has been the primary caregiver and who takes them to the veterinarian. In addition, the Court may order essentially temporary custody of the pet pending final hearing. The law goes into effect on January 1, 2019. To read the text of the law, click here.
As an Ohio divorce lawyer for near 40 years, I personally think the new California law makes practical sense. Pets can become as important to individuals as a child. I have been involved with many divorces where the parties have waged huge battles over post-divorce ownership of their pets. Many have spent thousands and thousands of dollars and I have even had a few suggest hiring expert pet behaviorists to come testify in Court. I have even heard stories about judges bringing in the dog and putting him/her in the middle between the 2 parties to try to evaluate the animal’s preference.
California Decides On Divorce Cases Involving Pet Custody And Ownership
Democratic Assemblyman Bill Quirk, who introduced the law, said it’s time family pets got the status they deserve, being deemed “family members”. Quirk himself has a Maltese-Shih Tzu mix named Luna and refers to himself as "the proud parent of a rescued dog”. California’s pet-loving governor Jerry Brown, has a photo of "first dog" Lucy Brown on his website. According to Lucy’s biography on the website, "When she is not out exploring the family ranch in Colusa County with the governor and first lady, Lucy can be found guarding the office and herding staff at the state Capitol.”
Will Ohio be next? My sources that I have discussed this with say “no”. However, I will of course keep you posted.
If you find yourself in a divorce and ownership of your beloved pet is a high priority, be certain to find a divorce lawyer who is experienced in negotiating these pet custody cases and can come up with creative and unique legal solutions!
At the Ohio Family Law Blog, we keep our readers updated about laws which affect our furry family members! Here are the links to several past blog articles on pet custody to read:
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Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog. Mr. Mues has also been a dog owner for 55+ years, and just recently, he and his wife are the owners of "Ralph", a rescued mixed Wire Hair and Jack Russell Terrier.