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AB 2274: Pets Are Family Members, Not Property


To many Californians, pets are more than just a cute face to come home to at night. The animals in our lives are important family members who serve as our constant and loving companions. In fact, we often treat our pets better than our own human family members!

It’s easy to see how divorce negotiations can quickly fall into heated disarray when a pet’s future is on the line. Fortunately, Assembly Bill 2274 went into effect on January 1, 2019, effectively tossing out the antiquated idea that pets should be treated like inanimate property in a divorce case. Following Alaska and Illinois, California is now the third state to consider the “best interests” of our animal companions during the divorce process. Of course, there is an important exception: service animals will always belong with the person in need.

Although pets are technically still “community property,” judges can award sole of joint ownership of an animal after considering the following factors:

  • Who feeds the pet?
  • Who has time to play with the pet?
  • Who takes the pet on walks?
  • Who provides the safest environment for the pet?
  • Who takes the pet to the vet?
  • Who can protect the pet from harm?

Pet custody hearings have become a growing social and legal trend in California. In the past, judges and lawyers have struggled to help separating spouses arrange pet custody schedules. Some bewildered judges have even had to place pets between owners just to guesstimate the animal’s personal preference. Of course, preference becomes superfluous if one pet owner can prove legal or premarital ownership.

The new law is expected to benefit both pets and pet owners. For example, pet owners won’t be able to weaponize their pets against their exes during or after the divorce case because the pet can no longer be claimed as property.

Many animal welfare groups, including the San Francisco SPCA, are very excited that Governor Jerry Brown signed AB 2274 before leaving office. In a press release, Brandy Kuentzel, the San Francisco SPCA’s general counsel, opined, “Today more than ever, people consider their pets as part of the family, not just personal property to be divvied up like an appliance or furniture. When it comes to legal separation, it is important to consider the care of the animal.” Of course, there is an important exception to this law: service animals will always belong to the person in need.

Learn More by Scheduling a Consultation

Contact the Fresno divorce lawyers at Arnold Law Group, APC if you’re preparing to file for divorce and have concerns about your pet’s future. We can evaluate your case, explain your legal options, and help you negotiate a reasonable custody schedule that reflects your pet’s needs.

Call Arnold Law Group, APC at (559) 900-1263 to schedule a free consultation.

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