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Family Law: Protecting your Pets in an Ontario Divorce

Pet owners love their pets, and to some it may seem absurd that Ontario law considers them as property to be divided at a breakdown of a marriage. The following are ways to protect yourselves and your pets in the event of a divorce:

1. Registration:

If your pets are registered, make sure you look at their papers to see whose name(s) are listed as the owners. Also check veterinarian records to make sure that you’re also on the contact list.  For that matter, make sure that you have copies of their current vaccinations, their Microchip ID numbers, and other such important information.  If you purchased the pets prior to marriage, find copies of the purchase contract, the source of the funds, and any other documentation that proves you are the legal owner.

2. “Pet Custody” Arrangement:

The law characterizes pets as property doesn’t mean that we have to do the same. Family law is very unique and special, in that Courts will honour a reasonable and enforceable agreement, regardless of whether or not it’s technically the “correct” legal resolution. If you have children, keeping your pets on the same schedule often makes sense.

3. Cost:

If you are going to do a shared custody arrangement, remember that you also have to discuss the costs of maintaining your pet. This should include food, grooming, and veterinarian bills.

Lastly, as much as you love your pets, your former spouse likely has also formed a close attachment with them. Just as it’s rarely in children’s best interests to never see the other parent, the same concept applies to pets. So sometimes you will have to make sacrifices and be uncomfortable because you love your pets and want what’s best for them.