Divorce: Custody of Pets

When couples with pets get divorced, what happens to the pets? The New York Times recently featured an article on this.

In California, pets are generally treated as personal property during a divorce. As such, the usual property rules apply. If a spouse was the owner of the pet before the marriage, the court will presume that pet is that spouse’s separate property. If the spouses became owners of the pet during the marriage, then the pet would be presumed community property. Custody of pets is not treated the same way as children, where custody is awarded based on the best interests of the child.

However, there are special rules about protecting pets. Under Family Code section 6320, a spouse can ask the court for a restraining order against the other spouse that orders him or her to stay away from the pet if that spouse poses a harm to the animal.

Couples looking to marry might consider addressing pets in their premarital agreement if they have a particular attachment to their animals. Many times this attachment is seen in couples with little or no children and could be a potential source of emotional contention. With an agreement in place, couples could reduce the need for long and expensive legal battles over pet custody in the event of a divorce.

Immigration: Designating Someone to Care for Your Children if Something Happens

As the new administration takes an aggressive approach against undocumented immigrants, you may be concerned with what may happen to your children in the event you are arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) or deported from the U.S. What you might consider is having a family preparedness plan to handle such a situation. There are three components:

  • Making a child care plan so that a trusted adult can care for your children.
  • Finding out about your immigration options.
  • And knowing your rights when you are confronted by ICE or the police.

Child Care Plan

You can choose someone to care for your children with a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit. This is a form that allows a caregiver to enroll your children into school and to authorize medical treatment for your children. How it works is that you fill out, sign, and date the form and then provide it to your children’s school and healthcare providers. The Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit does not take away your rights as a parent – you still have legal custody over your children.

Another option is to designate a caregiver with a power of attorney. A power of attorney can do much more than a Caregiver’s Authorization Affidavit. Not only can an agent be designated to care for and make decisions for your children, but also to oversee your financial affairs while you are unavailable. A power of attorney does not take away your rights as a parent. You will still have legal custody over your children.

You will also want to talk to your children about your plan and to let them know that someone will be there to care for them if anything were to happen to you.

Further, you should make sure your designated caregiver is listed as an emergency contact. Be sure to write down any medical conditions or allergies your children have, their medications, and doctor and health insurance information. This information should be provided to your children’s designated caregiver. Let your children know where to find this information as well.

More Information

There are many immigration advocacy groups and nonprofit legal services that offer workshops, information sessions, and handouts on dealing with the elevated risk of arrest and deportation. Here is a list of nearby organizations.