The ownership of pets, while common for Canadian households, can have a complicating effect on the end of a marriage. Here in British Columbia, pet owners tend to be very protective of their animals and often view them as members of the family, even though the law dictates they are technically property for divorce purposes. However, a representative in an American state is pushing to change the way his state’s lawmakers view pets, a move that could influence the way the issues are treated here in Canada as well.
Currently, a pet is considered property under both Canadian and American law, which means the ownership of the animal follows standard marital property rules. While an animal cannot be split in the way other assets might be, ownership can transfer to one or the other spouse, or the animal can be sold and the profits split. However, one legislator is proposing an alternative solution.
Most courts do not allow for “pet custody” agreements the way child custody agreements are set up. However, this Rhode Island lawmaker is proposing that judges take into consideration what is best for the welfare of a pet when determining these issues. While this is not a true custody matter, it does call for a change in the way the courts view pet ownership by prioritizing the needs of the pet over the needs of its owners.
Divorce is a complicated business, and property division even more so. Lawmakers in British Columbia and elsewhere in the country are constantly working to ensure the law is malleable enough to handle the unique divorce situations of the roughly 50 percent of marriages that will end this way. For those facing these issues, this means the support of experienced divorce attorneys can be invaluable in the process.