Go to navigation Go to content
Toll-Free: 866-414-4091
Phone: 415-341-1144
The Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan

When You’re Fighting like Cats and Dogs—Over the Family Pet

Who cares about the big screen TV or the high-priced artwork? For many couples, the important question is “who gets custody of Fluffy?”

You adopted Fluffy while you were dating. Fluffy was so tiny then. Now, he’s a 180-pound member of the family. Although you and and your ex can’t get along, you both love Fluffy. Neither of you can bear to give up the family pet. 

You are not alone. When Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson broke up, they fought over their dog, Bear. Drew Barrymore fought Tom Green for custody of her dog, Flossie. And it isn’t just celebrities; according to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, pet custody cases are increasing.

In most states, pets are still considered property. One person gets the dog, the other gets the stereo. Fortunately, California considers a pet to be more than a possession. California Family Code Section 6320 allows a judge to issue a restraining order if there is any chance of an estranged spouse harming a pet in any way.  

California law also allows for a variety of pet custody options:

  • Joint custody: The pet spends time in each household. The amount of time is to be determined by the divorcing parties. Feeding, exercise, and healthcare schedules will also need to be worked out.
  • Full custody: The pet stays in one household.
  • Sole custody with visitation rights: The pet stays in one household but the other party is allowed visitation rights.

You and your ex both love Fluffy, but when making a custody arrangement, you need to consider Fluffy’s best interests first.  Here are some things to think about:

  • Living environment: Will one of you be living in the home your Fluffy is used to? If not, will your new home offer a pet-friendly environment?
  • Lifestyle: In the past, you shared the work of caring for Fluffy. How will being the sole caretaker work with your schedules? Does one of you have a job that requires long hours or extensive travel? Does one of you have a lifestyle that allows more time to spend with your pet?
  • Children: Do you have children? How will your children feel if they are separated from Fluffy? How will Fluffy feel without the children?
  • Other pets: If you have more than one pet, it may make sense for each of you to take one. Will separating the pets cause stress or anxiety?
  • Your expectations: Can you and your ex come to a mutually acceptable custody arrangement?

If you and your ex cannot come to an agreement, the decision will be made by the judge. The judge may base his decision on any number of factors.

Fluffy is important to you. You need a San Francisco divorce lawyer who is familiar with California’s pet custody rulings and who understands that pets are more than possessions. Protect your relationship with your pet; call the Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan at 866-414-4091.