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Who Keeps the Pet After We Divorce?

Published March 30, 2020

It’s no secret that we in the Pacific Northwest love our pets. There are over 25 designated dog parks in Portland alone, and pet-friendly cafes allow us to sip our coffee alongside our furry friends. For many couples, the family dog assumes a child-like status within the household. So, what happens to the dog when the couple divorces? Until recently, states have classified pets as family property, meaning that they effectively are treated the same way as furniture during a divorce. But California is trying something new—under a new law, much more thought will be put into the fate of pets during divorce proceedings. Let’s take a look at how this new law may inspire Oregon to follow suit.

Considering Pet Welfare

California judges are now able to take more factors into account when deciding the future of a divorcing couple’s pet. Instead of viewing the animal as physical property, judges are now encouraged to “award custody [based] on what is best for the animal,” according to state Assembly member Bill Quirk, the bill’s sponsor. Important details that take into account the animal’s welfare, such as who typically walks, feeds, and cares for the dog, can now be used to determine which spouse should assume custody of the animal.

Addressing A Source of Strife

Apparently, pet custody matters have been a major point of contention in divorce courts for many years. In many instances, the couple fought over their pet as passionately as if they had been arguing over a child, prompting some judges to treat the case as if it were a child custody matter. California’s new law will provide more room for judges to address this contentious issue so that the couple can feel more confident that the fate of their pet is handled fairly.

Compassionate Services for Portland Clients

If you need help with your divorce, Lee Tyler Family Law, P.C. is here to help. Call (503) 233-8868 today to learn more about our collaborative divorce coaching and consultation services.

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