For some people, deciding who gets the pets after a divorce can be just as difficult and heartbreaking as determining custody of the children. Pets often become part of the family, but the law in Ontario considers them personal property to be divided at the end of a marriage. This means that no matter how emotionally attached you or your spouse may be to your furry friend, it can sometimes come down to a judge deciding who the pet gets to live with. If you’re preparing for divorce involving a pet, here are a few things to keep in mind:
Whose pet is it? Did you own the animal before you got married, or did your spouse? If you can, try to find the original purchase contract and trace the funds used to buy the pet. This can make a big difference when dividing possessions with your ex. Most of the time, anything that a person owned before their nuptials goes back to them after a divorce.
Who takes care of the pet? Are you the sole or primary caregiver of the pet? Are you the one that buys its food, takes it to the vet, and cleans up after it? If so, you can gather up your receipts showing what you have done for the pet and use them to bolster your claim to the animal.
Where will the kids live? If there are children involved as well, then it may be best for the pet to live where the children will live. This will help both the kids and the animal get through the transition without being so stressed.
Who would the animal want to live with? Too often, companion animals are used as leverage for one spouse to attempt to control the other. Though it may be tempting to try to get ownership of the animal simply to hurt your spouse or get them to agree to some other aspect of the separation agreement, consider instead what would be best for the pet.
Who has a lifestyle best suited for the pet? If you work long hours or are living in a small condo, then fighting for custody of a Great Dane might not make that much sense. Also remember that it takes money to properly care for an animal, some more than others, so be sure to consider these factors as well.
Your furry babies may mean the world to you, but in most cases they are no different than furniture or knickknacks in the eyes of the law. There have been a few instances where shared custody has been awarded for dogs, but this isn’t common. Talk to your lawyer about the laws and precedents in Ontario, and try to work out an agreement with your soon-to-be-ex that is in the best interest of everyone concerned.
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