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Who Gets Custody of a Pet After Divorce?

November 28, 2019

In Canada, pets are considered property under the law. Therefore, although pet custody is a popular expression, the legal term is pet ownership. However, in most households, pets are viewed as part of the family. They may even be affected by a divorce. While a pet cannot express their feelings, being forced to separate from any of their family members can leave your pets with separation anxiety and depression.

If you and your spouse are going through a divorce, you may be wondering what will happen to your pet.

How is pet custody decided?

In a marriage, you may have sole ownership or shared ownership of a pet. When one spouse had the pet before the marriage, that person is usually recognized as the owner. If you bought the pet, you should present a receipt, account statement or anything else that can serve as evidence of the purchase. If you received the pet as a gift or through pet adoption, you should provide proof thereof. You can also show possession if you are listed as the owner at your vet’s clinic, on a breeder’s certificate or city or municipal license.

If the pet was received after the marriage, they may then be considered shared property. In that case, the court may look at additional information such as who is the pet’s primary caregiver or who spends more time with the pet. The person who takes the pet for walks feeds them, takes them to the groomer, the vet or buys food and toys may be seen as the more committed owner.

Even though pets are property under the law, the courts will still consider the best interest of the pet when making a decision. A spouse is more likely to retain ownership if they can prove they have a suitable place for the pet to live and that they have enough time and funds to adequately care for the pet’s needs. Drug use and previous convictions may be considered as well. If a spouse has a history of using drugs or they have been convicted of domestic abuse, for example, this may show that they have a propensity to be violent towards a pet.

Should you consult a divorce lawyer to help with a pet custody dispute?

If you and your spouse cannot agree who should keep a pet, you should consult a divorce lawyer right away. A divorce lawyer can negotiate with the other party to settle your pet ownership dispute among other issues that arise in your divorce. They may even help you and your spouse to reach a divorce settlement agreement that will stipulate shared ownership where both parties will still have access to the pet. If negotiations are unsuccessful, your divorce lawyer will present your case in court to show why you should maintain ownership.

Are you searching for a divorce lawyer in Toronto?

If you are searching for a divorce lawyer in Toronto to help you settle pet custody and other matters, contact us at Baker and Baker Family Law. With over 90 years of combined experience, we are in a strong position to help.

At Baker and Baker Family Law, we understand how difficult a divorce can be for your family including your pets. We will provide professional and compassionate support as we fight to protect your rights.

So, what are you waiting for? Give us a call today to schedule a free legal consultation. Let us show you what we can do for you?

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