Who Gets Custody Of A Pet In Divorce? Langley & Surrey (Canada) - Zukerman Law

Who Gets Custody Of A Pet In Divorce?

If you have a pet, then you know that you don’t want to think about the idea of leaving it behind in divorce, even for a second. Pets are like children to some; they’re members of the family, and thinking about being away from them is hard. The problem is that Pets are more than just animals; how can you really spend time with them when you’re going to divorce your partner? What’s the best way to decide who lives with the pet?
When couples who share pets split, this can become an issue. Who will the dog live with? Where will the cat move? Can you share custody of the pet?
This blog post delves into the developing legal landscape surrounding pet custody in British Columbia. We’ll explore how recent legislative changes have shifted the focus from “who owns the pet” to prioritizing the well-being of these cherished animal companions.

Beyond "Ownership": Considering the Best Interests of Your Pet

Beyond “Ownership”: Considering the Best Interests of Your Pet

Traditionally, pets were viewed by the law as property, subject to division during divorce, such as furniture or a car. This approach often resulted in arbitrary outcomes that disregarded the emotional bonds between pets and their human companions.
However, British Columbia’s recent family law changes represent a significant shift. These new laws acknowledge the integral role pets play in many families and encourage the consideration of “pet custody” arrangements within divorce settlements. The focus has moved beyond a simple question of “ownership” to a more nuanced approach that prioritizes the well-being of the animal companion.
In one case reported in the news, a 33-year-old man and his ex, a 42-year-old woman, split the time they shared with their dog. For six months, the dog spends its time in Virginia, and for the other six months, it lives in British Columbia. This is an expensive solution for the pair, but living without their pet proved too much for either party.
Around 10 percent of divorces become contentious over pets owned by the family. Around 27 percent of lawyers have said that pet-related custody cases have been on the rise over the last five years, too. Dogs are the most frequently disputed animal, known as “Man’s Best Friend,” while cats are less commonly fought over.
It may be easier if a couple shares children because the pets tend to go where the kids go. In situations where money is an issue, the party making more may end up with the pet because it can be costly in the early years of their lives.

Key Factors in Determining Pet Custody

Key Factors in Determining Pet Custody

So, how do courts decide who gets custody of the pet in a BC divorce? Several factors come into play, including:

  • Quality of Care Provided: Evidence will be presented regarding the level of care each spouse provided the pet, including feeding, grooming, walking, and veterinary care.
  • Emotional Connections: The emotional attachments between each spouse and the pet will also be evaluated.
  • Living Arrangements and Resources: The ability to provide a stable and supportive environment for the pet is a critical consideration.
  • History of Family Violence: Any history of domestic violence within the family will be carefully examined as it can impact the pet’s well-being.

The Importance of Legal Guidance

While this blog post provides a general overview, navigating pet custody arrangements in a divorce can be complex. Consulting with a qualified family law lawyer in Surrey at Zukerman Law can ensure your rights are protected and the best interests of your furry friend are prioritized throughout the process.

Navigating Pet Custody in BC Divorces: Creative Solutions for Shared Companionship

Navigating Pet Custody in BC Divorces: Creative Solutions for Shared Companionship

British Columbia’s recent family law changes recognize the integral role pets play in family life. This shift extends to divorce proceedings, encouraging the exploration of creative solutions that prioritize the well-being of the animal companion. Moving beyond the traditional question of “ownership,” this blog post delves into various approaches for determining pet custody arrangements in a BC divorce.

Considering Split-Custody and Other Options

The new legal landscape opens doors for innovative strategies that ensure continued companionship for your pet. Here are some formal considerations:

  • Split-Custody Arrangements: Similar to child custody agreements, shared pet custody can be explored. This might involve dividing the time the pet spends with each ex-partner or alternating custody periods (weeks, months). While logistically complex, it can be a viable option for pets with strong bonds to both parties.
  • Structured Visitation Schedules: Even with primary custody assigned to one partner, regular visitation schedules can be established for the other. This allows for continued interaction and minimizes disruption to the pet’s established routines.
  • Mediation for Collaborative Decision-Making: Mediation can be a valuable tool in fostering collaborative decision-making regarding pet custody. A neutral third party facilitates communication and helps reach an agreement that prioritizes the well-being of the animal companion while considering the needs of all parties involved.
  • Considering Third-Party Caregivers: In some situations, a trusted friend or family member may be willing to act as a pet caregiver. This option can provide a stable environment for the animal while ensuring both ex-partners can maintain regular contact.
  • Utilizing Technology to Bridge Distance: Video calls and pet monitoring cameras can be employed to bridge physical distance during separation. These tools can facilitate continued interaction and emotional connection between the pet and both ex-partners.

Prioritizing the Pet’s Well-Being

As you explore these options, remember that the primary goal is to create a solution that minimizes stress and disruption for your pet. Here are some key factors to prioritize:

  • Stability and Routine: Pets thrive on consistency. Maintaining a familiar environment and established routines as much as possible is crucial for their well-being.
  • Minimizing Transitions: Frequent changes in caregivers and environments can be stressful for pets. Strive for a plan that minimizes disruptions to the pet’s established routines.
  • Emotional Needs: Consider the unique emotional bond your pet shares with each person. The custody arrangement should support these connections and ensure the continued emotional well-being of the animal companion.

Bottom Line: Prioritizing Your Pet’s Future

British Columbia’s recognition of pets as family members empowers you to ensure their well-being during divorce. By working with a qualified family law lawyer and prioritizing creative solutions, you can facilitate a smooth transition for your furry friend and secure a future where their emotional and physical needs are met.
Contact Zukerman Law today to schedule a consultation and discuss your pet custody options. Let our experienced legal team help you navigate this process and ensure your pet receives the care and companionship they deserve.


Stuart Zukerman

Stuart Zukerman, a graduate of the University of British Columbia, has over 32 years of experience in litigation with a focus on Family Law, Personal Injury, Wrongful Dismissal claims, and Collaborative Divorce & Mediation. He has extensive trial experience in divorce, child custody, spousal support, asset division, and ICBC injury claims. As an accredited Family Law Mediator, he helps resolve disputes without court intervention. Stuart has also authored papers on family law and lectured at CLE courses.