Your horse may feel like an important part of your family. If that family is changing due to a divorce, you may worry who will receive ownership of the horse. Different states have different laws when it comes to who can keep a horse during a split.

Keeping your horse in a divorce may take help from an experienced family law attorney who is skilled in complex property division.

California’s property distribution laws

California is a community property divorce state. This means the courts will divide marital property down the middle in a divorce case. The courts will not examine the factors of a case and determine property distribution based on what is fair or equitable. Instead, it will order a 50/50 split of all community property, regardless of fault for the divorce.

Community or marital property refers to all assets, property, debts and pets the couple acquired together during the course of a marriage. A horse is property in the state of California. Marital property is fair game during a divorce case, meaning the law entitles both parties to 50% of the property. Separate property, on the other hand, is property each spouse individually owned before the marriage.

If your horse was yours prior to marriage, or if it was a gift or an inheritance given to you during the marriage, your spouse will not have any ownership rights over the horse. If, however, you or your spouse acquired the horse during your marriage, the courts may lump it in with the rest of your marital property for division.

How to keep your horse after a divorce

If you wish to keep your horse after a divorce in California, you may be able to work with your spouse and a mediator to create an agreement that works for both of you without a judge’s intervention. The courts will let you work out a property distribution agreement alone first. Then, if that does not work, your case will go to court. Hiring an attorney could help you maximize your odds of getting the horse during a divorce trial.