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Fighting Over a Pet Is a Common Divorce Battle These Days


Posted on Dec 13, 2014

Mason is six years old, and he enjoys what most six-year-olds like. He loves to play fetch in the backyard with Mr. Davis, and he will hang out in the kitchen every evening, watching Mrs. Davis make dinner. Mason loves both of his parents, and they both love and adore Mason. But “Mom” and “Dad” are not in love any more, and they’ve decided they’re going to divorce. They now have to decide who will get Mason, and if they cannot reach an agreement on their own, between them, the matter will have to be decided in court.

A bit of key information needed in deciding the matter of custody: Mason isn’t the Davis’ son—he’s their darling French bulldog, given to Mrs. Davis as a birthday gift from Mr. Davis.

On a recent TV news feature broadcast by San Francisco CBS, our very own Paul Nathan spoke as an authority on the often heated divorce subject of pet custody. As highlighted in the TV news feature, here are some of the most valid and interesting points made:

  • Pets actually outnumber children in San Francisco—and 63 percent of pet owners consider their pets to be a member of their own family, so the thought of parting with one’s furry baby can be difficult.
  • These days, cats and dogs often have longer life spans than the American marriage, which lasts eight years on average.
  • More and more, pet ownership is a contentious part of the divorce process. In fact, divorce attorneys report a thirty percent jump in pet disputes over the past five years.
  • When pet owners divorce, the decision as to who will retain custody of the animal itself will be made based on the current legal system by a judge.
  • Current laws in California require pets to be treated as personal property, and a pet’s home is determined based on property laws as part of the marital estate. Although society is trending more and more toward a rejection of this treatment, because of common laws, there’s little wiggle room for judges to make exceptions as to the property treatment of animals.
  • California law will only allow a judge to grant an exception to the law if and when an animal’s safety is at risk.
  • Fighting for custody of a pet can cost thousands of dollars if the matter can’t be settled outside of court.
  • It can happen in some cases, but do not use your pet as leverage against your spouse. Think instead about what’s best for your pet, and try to settle out of court to avoid a costly fight and to also avoid putting the decision in the hands of a court.

There is a number of things to consider when deciding where your pet will live after your divorce. Nathan Paul understands your pet is far more than a possession to be filed as a piece of property. If you need a San Francisco lawyer who is familiar with California’s pet custody rulings, protect your pet and give a call to the Law Offices of Paul H. Nathan at 866-414-4091.

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