Family law: Pet custody issues better negotiated out of court

Pets are part of many families and deciding who will keep the dog — or cat or fish — when a couple decides to go their separate ways can be as traumatising as fighting over child custody. The difference is that pets are not recognised as beings under family law in Ontario, but rather as possessions to be divided or sold and the profits shared. Pet lovers would certainly want to find another way to deal with pet custody issues.
Although some judges understand the love people may have for their pets, they can only deal with pet issues as part of property division. A judge in another province recently reprimanded a couple for wasting the time of the family court with a pet custody issue. Another couple spent thousands of dollars on legal battles fought over a pet dog. The wife produced her Canadian Kennel Club Certificate to prove ownership of the dog, while the husband used Visa statements to show the amounts spent at the veterinarian.

The couple ultimately reached a custody agreement giving one spouse custody and the other visitation rights. Negotiating mutual agreements about pet custody might be the most suitable route to follow. Litigating a battle such as this may end in a judge’s decision that might not be the one for which the pet owners wished.
If couples find it impossible to agree on arrangements for the care of a family pet, it might help to consult with a family law lawyer. Although Ontario family law does not include pet custody, a lawyer may help the owners to reach an amicable agreement and draft a binding legal document. If necessary, he or she may also arrange for the services of a legal professional to help facilitate negotiations. Source:, “Unfortunate realities of divorcing your dog“, Tracy Jessiman, Accessed on Jan. 27, 2017

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