Understanding how California’s community property laws work is important for pet lovers who are planning to get married or divorced. Generally, all property acquired before a marriage, including animals, is an individual’s separate property. Any pets purchased or adopted during a couple’s marriage, however, are marital property with ownership determined during a divorce.

Prenuptial agreements are becoming popular for many couples tying the knot, and pet lovers may wish to include contractual language regarding the care of any future household animals. As noted in reports by Good Morning America, prenuptial agreements are a way to provide for a pet’s insurance, veterinary care and medical treatment in case a couple decides to divorce. A legally enforceable document may also prevent an individual from holding a pet hostage against a feuding spouse during an acrimonious split.

Custody of family animals

Family courts determine which parent takes full custody of children and which parent has visitation rights. Sharing the custody of family pets, however, is not a matter considered by most courts. A couple may wish to outline any possible pet custody issues in a prenuptial agreement to prevent fighting over it. If there is no prenuptial agreement, couples may draft a postnuptial agreement to determine the care and custody for a newly acquired family pet.

Postnuptial agreements

Written and signed during a marriage, a postnup has a specific purpose and the need for one is generally the result of a change or addition of property while married, as noted by NBC News Digital. A postnup document may contain terms outlining which spouse a pet belongs to if there is a separation or divorce.

Details regarding the animal’s needs and well-being may become part of a binding postnuptial agreement. If an animal requires special care such as grooming, medical services or training, the agreement might also include details regarding its financial support. Postnups are changeable at any time as long as both spouses agree to the terms and sign the updated document.