What Happens To Pets During A Divorce Or Separation?

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Pets During Separation And Divorce Division Of Assets

Our pets are important family members and many parties disagree on where they should live when they separate. Many clients assume that the law treats pets like children because they are family members. Unfortunately, the legal system lacks the tools to deal with pets in a way consistent with how people see them. Judges treat our pets just like any other personal property. This means that pets during separation and divorce end up treated like a savings account or a car. Consequently, the party with a better claim to ownership of the pet gets the pet. The family lawyers at Kahane Law Office, love pets and know they become like family. We help you with the practical issues surrounding pets during separation and divorce.

My Ex Owned Our Pet, Can Judges Grant Visitation Or Custody?

Unfortunately the court lacks jurisdiction to allow for visitation or custody. Because your pet is considered property under the law, you can only ask a judge to grant an order making you the owner of your pet. Custody, guardianship, visitation, contact, access and parenting time are all terms used in the context of children of a relationship. Those terms do not apply to pets or other property.

How Do Judges Decide Who Owns Our Pets During Separation And Divorce?

Parties who want to argue they should retain a family pet can provide any evidence they wish to assist them. This evidence often includes a review of who purchased the pet, who is listed on the city license, who is registered at the vet, who is identified on any paperwork, or who receives the pet as a gift. The more you can demonstrate, the more likely a judge will decide you are the owner of a pet when tackling the issues of pets during separation and divorce.

What Happens If My Ex Gets Our Pet?

If the court rules that your pet belongs to your ex, the remedy is a financial one. The law and the courts allow for reimbursement or compensation for the work and money you spent on the pet. Using the common law concept of unjust enrichment, you could argue that your time and money unjustly enriched the owner of the pet, while depriving you of that time and money. Sometimes the court accepts arguments that the time spent walking, bathing, and feeding a pet allows for some kind of financial compensation to you. You may also be able to receive compensation for vet and other bills.

Can We Split Time With our Pets If We Agree To?

Yes! Although the legal system may not reflect the importance of your pets, parties are free to make any agreement they wish when negotiating who gets your pets during separation and divorce. The law of contract is broad and can encompass your wishes without requiring a judge’s intervention. Word of warning, a possibility exists that not all judges allow for enforcement of these types of agreements if a dispute arises. At the time of writing, no reported court cases existed to support the argument one way or the other.

How Kahane Law Family Law Lawyers Help With Pets

Our lawyers can help you negotiate and draft a separation agreement where you retain ownership of your pets. If it is obvious that you will not retain ownership of your pets, our lawyers assist you with negotiating compensation for the time and money you spent on those pets. Do not let navigating dealing with pets during separation and divorce go unaddressed. We help. Connect with our team in Calgary at 403-225-8810 or, email us directly here.