Thursday, January 15, 2015

Pet Custody? What's The Standard?

Recent changes in the California version of the Domestic Violence Prevention Act now permit a judge making a restraining order, to make an order for "... the exclusive care, possession, or control of any animal owned, possessed, leased, kept, or held by either the petitioner or the respondent or a minor child residing in the residence.... The court may order the respondent to stay away from the animal and forbid the respondent from taking, transferring, encumbering, concealing, molesting, attacking, striking, threatening, harming, or otherwise disposing of the animal."   There is no explanation provided as to what the court should and should not consider to be "good cause" for such an order, and how a court is to resolve conflicting claims to possession of a particular animal. 

This new law is inconsistent with long-standing law in California and most other states that dogs, and other "domestic animals" are personal property, to be divided in a divorce, and  worth, according to California law,  their sale price.

We've negotiated  pet custodial arrangements in the past, understanding that, in some cases, the emotional value to a party of a pet may be vastly different than the pet's "market value".

California has not yet recognized any claim for money damages for being deprived of the custody of a dog.  A Vancouver judge recently rejected a similar claim in Canada, but it seems to have been only one of several pretty frivolous claims brought by the parties, and all summarily rejected by the judge.