Family Law Blog

Prenups and Pets in California

Tuesday, July 07, 2015

Forget the China and antiques-in some marriages, the bigger divorce battles are over who gets to walk out with Fido or Max. Pets are an integral part of many American families, and therefore, it is understandable that when the marriage ends, the disputes over who gets to keep the pets begin.

There are no easy ways to divide the pets in a divorce. Unlike all of the other assets that have clearly defined rules related to distribution or custody, there are no clearly defined roles in California about the custody of pets in a divorce. When it comes to pets, your best bet at protecting your rights to your pet is to clearly define this in your prenuptial agreement. Mention in your prenuptial agreement that the pet that you owned before the marriage, will continue to remain with you if you exit the marriage. This will establish your rights to your pet, and protect your rights to the custody of the pet.

If you haven't gotten yourself a prenup, it isn't too late to clearly define your rights. Get a post-nuptial agreement. This is a contract which works very similarly to a pre-nup, except the timing of the agreement. A post-nuptial agreement is signed after the marriage, and can include all of the details that you want to settle in a prenuptial agreement too. The post-nuptial will clearly define your rights to your pet and the continuation of those rights even after the divorce. If the pet was bought by both you and your spouse jointly, things become more difficult. You might have to stipulate in the agreement for instance, that your pet must go with the spouse who has emotionally bonded with the animal, or who had more caretaking responsibilities.