File this one in “changes to divorce law that ignore its many real problems”: The Los Angeles Times reports a new California law will allow judges to treat pets more like children in divorces. That means considering their “well-being” and spousal caretaking, not just ownership, in custody determinations.
Alaska and Illinois have recently passed similar laws, says the Times. It reports:
In the past, courts have generally assigned pets to spouses based on who paid for or adopted them. Under a law signed Thursday by Gov. Jerry Brown, courts would be allowed to make custody decisions based on who walks a dog, takes a cat to the vet or grooms a horse. Courts will also be authorized to order one spouse to provide food, shelter and medical care for a pet before a final ruling.
Laws like these highlight how pets are increasingly substituting for children in the richest society in world history. The United States’ perilously low procreation rate is not just a signal of cultural flaccidity, it’s worsening our Ponzi-style entitlements bankruptcy while increasing the labor market’s demand for foreign immigration even as our assimilation processes and education system deteriorate.
Of course, the big question is left unanswered: Can the non-custodial spouse get pet visitation rights? Could it encourage partners to make the pet dangerously obese or badly behaved by attempting to curry its favor against the other partner?
Probably the spouse who hires the most expensive lawyer will be most likely to control the dog, which of course means adding distractions to courts dealing with the devastation of actual human children and their parents. The Association of Certified Family Law Specialists, reports the Times, “said the measure would overwhelm the family courts system with extended debates about which spouse was a better caretaker.”
So now pets can look forward to the same anguish, manipulation, bribery, and other petty power battles that children often endure during a divorce. All filtered through lawyers, who get paid handsomely for every word the bickering couple exchanges, and fees parallel to the level of spousal acrimony.
Welcome to American divorce law, kitty cat. Are you sure you don’t want a feral life instead? The back door’s open.