California Family Code 2605 – Sample Stipulation for Pet Custody
Are you worried about how your separation or divorce from your significant other will impact the family pet? Prior to January 1, 2019, even when couples were able to come to an agreement regarding where the family pet would live post-separation and whether the other party would be able to have any kind of visitation or custody of the pet, the agreements were not legally enforceable by the family court. Pets and animals were treated as personal property items, distributed and divided between the parties as any piece of furniture or car would be. With the enactment of Family Code Section 2605, however, pet owners who find themselves in California family court can now have legally enforceable stipulations, judgments, and orders issued regarding the care of their beloved pets.
California Family Code Section 2605:
(a) The court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may enter an order, prior to the final determination of ownership of a pet animal, to require a party to care for the pet animal. The existence of an order providing for the care of a pet animal during the course of proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties shall not have any impact on the court’s final determination of ownership of the pet animal.
(b) Notwithstanding any other law, including, but not limited to, Section 2550, the court, at the request of a party to proceedings for dissolution of marriage or for legal separation of the parties, may assign sole or joint ownership of a pet animal taking into consideration the care of the pet animal.
(c) For purposes of this section, the following definitions shall apply:
(1) “Care” includes, but is not limited to, the prevention of acts of harm or cruelty, as described in Section 597 of the Penal Code, and the provision of food, water, veterinary care, and safe and protected shelter.
(2) “Pet animal” means any animal that is community property and kept as a household pet.
Free Pet Custody Sample Order / Animal Custody Judgment Template
CUSTODY AND OWNERSHIP OF [Description of Pet e.g. Black Labradore] (Pet’s Name)
- Petitioner and Respondent shall share joint ownership of the [description of pet], [pet’s name], pursuant to Family Code Section 2605.
- [Pet’s name] is a “Pet animal” within the meaning of Family Code Section 2605, meaning she/he is an animal that is community property and kept as a household pet.
- Petitioner and Respondent shall share in the care and physical custody of [Pet’s name] according to the following schedule:
- [Insert Regular Schedule here] Example: On alternating weeks from 5 p.m. Monday until 5 p.m. Thursday, commencing September 1, 2020.
- Petitioner/Respondent shall have [Pet’s name] at all other times, subject to the provisions below.
- [Pet’s name] shall be housed indoors at night when in the custody of either party. In the event either party becomes unwilling or unable to house [Pet’s name] indoors at night, [Pet’s name] will automatically and immediately revert to the other party’s custody and control without further order of the court.
- If at any time either party becomes unable to house [Pet’s name] indoors at night, he/she shall notify the other party of such, in writing, forthwith.
- Both parties shall ensure the prevention of acts of harm or cruelty to [Pet’s name], as described in Section 597 of the Penal Code, and shall at all times provide for the provision of food, water, veterinary care, and safe and protected shelter.
- In the event either party seeks to give up his/her ownership/custody rights over [Pet’s name] to a third party, that party shall notify the other party in writing forthwith. The notified party then has the first right and priority to take sole ownership/custody of [Pet’s name] over any third parties.
- The parties shall share in the responsibility and confer in good faith on matters relating to the health and welfare of [Pet’s name].
- Both parties shall notify the other party of the proposed move of [Pet’s name]. The party intending to move [Pet’s name] must notify the other party 45 days prior to any planned change in residence of [Pet’s name]. The notification must state, to the extent known, the planned address of [Pet’s name], including the county and state of the new residence. The notification must be sent by certified mail, return receipt requested.
- Each party shall notify the other of the name and address of each veterinarian who examines or treats [Pet’s name]; such notification to be made within 3 days of the commencement of the first such treatment or examination.
- Both parties shall keep the other informed about the health, safety, and welfare of [Pet’s name].
- Neither party shall make any major decisions, including housing and veterinary care, about [Pet’s name]’s health or welfare without first consulting the other party.
- Each party is authorized to take any and all actions necessary to protect the health and welfare of [Pet’s name], including but not limited to consent to emergency surgical procedures or treatment. The party authorizing such emergency treatment must notify the other party as soon as possible of the emergency situation and of all procedures or treatment administered to [Pet’s name].
- Each party will have access to [Pet’s name]’s veterinary records and the right to consult with those professionals providing services to [Pet’s name].
- Each party shall be designated as a person the veterinarian is to contact in the event of an emergency.
- Failure to comply with any of the provisions herein may subject the parties to civil or criminal penalties.
- The Court shall retain jurisdiction to enforce and/or modify the terms herein upon noticed motion of either party.
Notice: Please contact an attorney to advise you of your rights upon an assessment of the facts in your case before using this template. If you are trying to negotiate an agreement regarding the care and custody of a pet with a partner who has committed domestic violence, harmed the pet in question, or has threatened to harm the pet in question, it is strongly advised that you contact a family law attorney to consider all of your options.