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New California law changes pet treatment during divorce

There is no doubt that in many homes in California, pets are viewed as beloved family members rather than simply as animals who need care. Unfortunately, when couples choose to divorce, they may have difficulty deciding what will happen to any pets. However, a new state law recently signed by Gov. Jerry Brown will give judges some discretion regarding the treatment of an animal.

Some legal professionals report that who will get the family pet is often a contentious topic. Under current law, a pet is considered family property, seen as property to be divided rather than a valued member of the family. While the new law that goes into effect on January 1 still classifies pets as community property, judges will have more discretion.

For example, judges will be able to take into consideration who cares for the animal, including who takes it to the vet, feeds it and takes it for walks. In the past, reports claim, the current law has required judges to be creative when dealing with pets. This potentially included separating pets if there was more than one or creating some sort of shared custody arrangement.

For many families, pets are just as important as any other family member. Often, a person who provides the most care for a family pet in California may find him or herself fighting to keep the beloved companion. However, the new law may help judges as they seek to resolve such issues during a divorce. An attorney with knowledge of state law -- both new and old -- can help those seeking to end their marriage fully understand their options.

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