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Courts to protect pets' rights in divorce cases in 2019

A Dec. 29 news report has many couples satisfied with changes in the law. A new California divorce law states that pets are to be treated as people, not property, when going through a divorce.

In the past, pets were treated as property, having only a financial value that could be split. There was no real concern for the animal's potential preferences or for the feelings involved in sharing, and potentially losing, a pet.

As of Jan. 1, 2019, pets have more protection. Judges now have a right to decide on where an animal should live and what actions are in the animal's best interests. This is a major move toward animal rights.

Judges may now consider joint pet custody in divorces involving pets. Courts have to view ownership of pets differently than property, even though people technically pay for their pets or obtain them as gifts. Now, the pets have their own rights, so that judges can decide if going with one "pet parent" is the right choice or if the pet needs to have both remain in its life.

The law doesn't only apply to dogs and cats. It can apply to any animal that is currently community property at the time of a divorce. That could include animals like horses, rats and even snakes or spiders. The majority of cases do involve dogs, but around 1 percent were horses and 6 percent were animals such as iguanas, turtles and snakes.

This is just one of the changes happening this year. Keep updated, so you know how your divorce will be affected.

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