California's Treatment of Pets in Divorce Proceedings.

Understanding the Legal Status of Pets in California Divorce Cases

In California, pets are often considered part of the family, but under the law, they are treated as personal property during divorce proceedings. This classification has been standard across many jurisdictions in the United States; however, recent legal developments have started to challenge this traditional view. In California, Assembly Bill 2274, which took effect on January 1, 2019, has shifted the perspective on how pets are handled in divorces, allowing judges to consider the well-being of the pet in custody decisions.

Traditional Approach: Pets as Property

Historically, pets were treated purely as assets in a marriage, akin to furniture or vehicles. In case of a divorce, pets would be included in the division of marital property, with decisions often based on financial value or ownership documents. This meant that emotional attachment and the pet’s needs were rarely considered.

Assembly Bill 2274: A New Era for Pet Custody

The enactment of Assembly Bill 2274 marked a significant change by allowing courts to consider the care of pets similar to how they consider child custody issues. This bill authorizes a judge to assign sole or joint ownership based on what is best for the pet. Factors such as who feeds the pet, takes it to vet appointments, and provides general care are taken into account.

Implications for Pet Owners

The law now requires consideration of 'pet welfare' when determining who gets custody in a divorce. This can lead to detailed custody arrangements that include visitation rights and financial responsibilities for each party. Given this shift, pet owners facing divorce must be prepared for potentially complex negotiations concerning their furry companions.


As societal views on animal welfare evolve, laws like California's Assembly Bill 2274 reflect a growing recognition of pets as sentient beings rather than mere property. For divorcing couples in California, understanding these legal nuances is crucial for ensuring the well-being of their pets during what can be a challenging transition.