Carlsbad Family Law Attorneys

New Law Changes How Pets are Designated in Divorce Cases

San Diego, CA – If you wonder how much our pets mean to us, here is one clue: Americans spent more than $69 billion on pet Children, dad and dogproducts in 2017.

Perhaps that figure isn’t as strong an indicator of how much pets have become family members as a new bill signed into law in September by California Gov. Jerry Brown. The law moves pets from “family property” status to community property.

This change, which takes effect on Jan. 1, 2019, means that judges get to decide who keeps the family pets, and they will be allowed to weigh factors such as who feeds them, who takes them to veterinary appointments, who walks them, and who protects them, according to the Associated Press.

It is likely that many judges welcome the law. Stories abound of judges’ creativity in trying to determine pet custody when divorcing spouses couldn’t reach an agreement on their own, the AP article stated.

Some judges have put the dog between the spouses in an effort to determine which person it liked the best. Families with two pets often had the judge suggest splitting them up. In other cases, judges have ordered shared custody where each spouse gets the dog for a week or a month at a time.

California Assemblymember Bill Quirk (D-Hayward) introduced the bill earlier this year. The bill requires judges to take an animal’s interests into consideration during divorce proceedings and allow joint ownership of a companion animal, according to a press release from Quirk’s office.

“There is nothing in statute directing judges to treat a pet differently from any other type of property we own,” Quirk stated in the release. “However, as a proud parent of a rescued dog, I know that owners view their pets as more than just property. They are part of our family, and their care needs to be a consideration during divorce proceedings.”

This bill comes at a good time. Family lawyers have reported an increase in pet custody hearings in court in recent years. In a 2014 survey, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported that pet custody hearings have increased 22 percent.

The law makes it possible for a spouse to petition the court for sole or joint ownership of the family pet.

“More and more people truly do view their pets as children these days,” said John Griffith, a San Diego family lawyer who has negotiated agreements between spouses that addressed pet custody. “Nowadays it’s common for people to hire dog walkers and pet sitters, to seek out pet-friendly accommodations when vacationing, and to send their dogs to daycare when they’re at work. They love their animals, and they don’t want them treated in divorce proceedings in the same way that it’s determined who gets the television or the patio furniture.”

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  • John N. Griffith, Esq., CFLS
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  • John N. Griffith, Esq., CFLS John N. Griffith, Esq., CFLS

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    John Griffith has practiced exclusively in the area of family law since 2009. John is a Certified Family Law Specialist certified as an expert in the area of family law by the California Board of Legal Specialization. Prior to opening Griffith, Young & Lass, he worked as the managing partner of one of the largest family law firms in North County San Diego.
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    Catie E. Young excels in child custody cases and move-away trials. She has a unique approach to child custody cases and clients of Griffith, Young & Lass tend to gravitate toward her in these cases. Since joining the firm, she has continuously brought her zeal and compassion to representing clients in child custody and domestic violence cases, and in December 2011, she became a partner at Griffith, Young & Lass.
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    Amy Lass, a certified family law specialist, was born in New York and raised in San Diego, California. Amy graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo in 2003 with a B.S. in Economics with a concentration in Enterprise Accounting. Amy went on to earn her law degree from Thomas Jefferson School of Law and graduated cum laude in 2006.
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  • Shirin Asgari, Esq. Shirin Asgari, Esq.

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    Attorney Shirin Asgari has a broad spectrum of legal experience and has handled matters in family law, criminal law, business law, and national security law. Currently, she focuses on family law matters and is a strong advocate for the rights of her clients. She dedicates time and attention to the needs of each client and the unique circumstances their case presents.
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  • Eric Cowdery, Esq. Eric Cowdery, Esq.

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    Eric Cowdery earned his bachelor’s and Master’s degrees before earning his JD from Golden Gate University as part of the Honors Lawyering Program. He was admitted to the California Bar Association in 2013 and has been working diligently in the field ever since. Taking a personalized approach to each case, Eric Cowdery is committed to working with clients to help them through the often confusing and complex legal process of divorce.

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    Jeffrey Wittliff is extremely attentive to his cases and believes in thorough preparation and the value of regular client communication. Behind the scenes, he has an extensive background in research related to all areas of family law, propounding discovery when necessary, and negotiation to settle cases with opposing parties.
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    Attorney Joshua Yeereceived his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science, from the University of California, San Diego. Joshua went on to receive his Juris Doctor degree from University of San Francisco. His experience working with a local Certified Family Law Specialist solidified his desire to become a family law attorney. Since becoming an attorney, Josh has exclusively practiced in family law.
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  • Shaudi Malekzadeh, Esq. Shaudi Malekzadeh, Esq.

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    Shaudi Malekzadeh is a Carlsbad family law attorney at Griffith, Young & Lass, advocating for the rights and interests of Southern California families in a variety of family law cases, such as child custody, alimony, spousal support, and the division of community property. She is committed to delivering effective legal representation to our clients, aggressively advocating for their legal rights, and offering compassionate legal advice.
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