For many families, their pets are like their children, and when a divorce is looming, the fate of the pets can cause significant concern. In 2004, after a family law dispute, an Alberta court ordered a husband to pay his ex-wife $200 per month to enable her to take proper care of their dog. Although this was recorded as part of the spousal support, the court clearly indicated that the money was the support of the pet.
In the eyes of the law, pets have owners and are therefore property. If one spouse brings a pet into the marriage, that person will get to keep it in the event of a divorce. However, with any other such property, if it increases in value during the marriage, the divorcing parties must share that increase. Will the same apply for a pet?
Although the law considers pets as possessions, more and more courts understand the emotional connections between families and their pets. Who knows, maybe changes will be made by which courts will consider the best interests of the pets as they do for children. After all, in many cases, separating kids and their beloved pets would not be in the best interests of the children – nor the pets.
Until legislation changes, Alberta families may want to try to resolve pet custody, support and visitation issues through negotiation. It might be a good idea to address those matters along with any other family law dispute in mediation. A seasoned divorce lawyer's many years of experience and dealings with similar problems may help to resolve all matters of contention.
Source: FindLaw Canada, "Who gets custody of the family pet when a couple separates or divorces?", Miriam Yosowich, Accessed on Jan. 12, 2017