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Who Gets To Keep The Family Pet After A Divorce?

Written by: HHLaw (View All Posts ) Published: November 16, 2018
Categorized: Family Law.
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Many couples that own pets say they develop a relationship with them akin to raising children. There is an emotional bond and a level of care and affection provided to pets that is not given to other types of property. However, there is currently no legislation that dictates pets should be shared between divorcing spouses. Pets are treated like property, and essentially remain with the person who obtained or brought the pet into the relationship.

Current Rulings On Pet Ownership

Not every case goes to trial pertaining to pets, but a few have made their way to various levels of appeal courts across the country. While the presiding judges have upheld the legal application that pets are property, they have let their displeasure be known about this shortcoming within the law.

Judges Noting Their Displeasure

In Newfoundland, three judges ruled on a case pertaining to the ownership of a dog. One partner looked after the pet daily while the other partner – who brought the pet into the relationship – was at work. Both partners fought for custody of the dog when the relationship ended. Two judges ruled in favour that the dog should be treated like property, in compliance with existing legislation. The third judge ruled the separating couple should have joint custody over the pet. The argument was based on the type of bond that owners create with their pets – they love and care for pets similar to family members.

Options For Pet Owners

While there is no immediate move to amend divorce laws regarding the categorization of pets as property, couples are free to make their own arrangements. They can create their own joint custody terms as part of their settlement agreement.

Another option is a marriage contract or cohabitation agreement – outlining who will get ownership or access to any shared pets within the relationship. A legal professional can assist you with drafting terms that are legal and enforceable.

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