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With New Law Changing Pet Custody, Who Gets The Dog In The Divorce?

SACRAMENTO (CBS13) — A new California law will give a judge the decision to whom keeps "Fido" in the midst of a bad divorce. After all, many people love their pets just like any other member of the family.

"These guys are like your kids," a local man said.

When married couples get a divorce, deciding who gets to keep the dogs, cats and other animals is often one of the most emotional and contentious issues.

"It's very tough," said David Dix of Sacramento.

"I can see how it could get real ugly," said Rigel Hill at the dog park Friday.

Hill says it was tough giving up his dog when he untied the knot.

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"Every time I come around he wants to go back with me and it's like losing a kid," he said.

Family law attorney Wazhma Mojaddidi says under current California law, judges are forced to consider pets as community property.

"They haven't really looked into the details as to what's best for the pet because it's been treated more like a piece of furniture," she said.

But now a new law is allowing courts to decide what's in the pets best interest.

"The judge is really looking at the pet as a family member and considering which of the two parties is going to actually care for the pet more," said Mojaddidi.

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It's a new law many animal lovers' support.

"They aren't a piece of furniture and they have feelings and people are very tied to them," said Steve Wheeler, dog dad of young Scout.

But there's some concern the new requirement could add an extra burden in a divorce and could further slow the process.

"There's already so much backlog in the family law courts," Mojaddidi said.

But in the end, it's a new way for the courts to rule hoping to make divorces a little less ruff.

The new law, however, doesn't impact guide dogs or therapy dogs because those animals are typically assigned to an individual and not a couple.

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