Many Canadian families own pets, and those animals are widely considered by their owners to be far more than simply property. Of course, here in British Columbia, the eyes of the law see the most beloved family pets as nothing more than assets to be divided in the event a pet-owning couple seeks divorce. However, recent legislation passed in at least one U.S. state may be changing the way even Canadian lawmakers view pet ownership in the context of a divorce.
Currently, an animal owned by one spouse before the marriage will revert to that individual’s ownership in the event of a divorce, as the animal is seen as pre-marital property. However, in cases where the animal is purchased jointly by the couple after the marriage occurs, it is considered marital property and must technically be divided. This is perhaps why laws are being considered in some U.S. states to address this issue.
In Alaska, for example, a law has been passed allowing judges to assign “joint custody” to spouses with a shared pet. Of course, these agreements are not as comprehensive as those applied to children, but it is still an unprecedented move in family law. It seems likely this interpretation of pets in the eyes of the law will continue to appeal to animal lovers who also happen to be getting divorced.
Divorce law can be complicated at the best of times. This is even more true when new laws are introduced that could influence cases for couples here in British Columbia. Seeking counsel from experienced divorce attorneys is a good place to start for both individuals to understand their rights and responsibilities under family law.