How Is Pet Ownership Determined After Separation?

On behalf of Peterson Stark Scott posted in Family Law on January 30, 2017.

Separation is never easy on families, but it can get even tougher when it involves their pets. Many couples consider pets valued members of the family and their owners often have a strong attachment to them. So, when a couple decide to split, the parties may have difficulty determining ownership of the pet.

Is There Such A Thing As Pet Custody?

When disputes arise as to which of the parents the children will live with, the parties can either draw up an agreement between themselves or go to court to determine custody.

With pets, the situation is different because pets are not considered sentient beings under the law. As such, they are not seen as members of the family. Pets are considered property and will be divided according to family property division guidelines under the British Columbia Family Law Act for married or common law couples.

Separating couples can go to court to ask a judge to decide on pet ownership. However, courts will likely not look at what is best for the pets or the owners. Instead, they will look at the property division guidelines under the Act to determine pet ownership.

What Considerations Exist When Deciding Over Pets?

Separating couples should think about several post-separation factors when determining the care and keeping of pets:

  • How much care do the pets need?
  • What are the financial considerations for pet care?
  • What travel distances exists between the separating couple when arranging for visits?

Though many separating couples are able to negotiate pet ownership and visitation between themselves, disputing parties do well to consult an experienced family law lawyer.

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