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Who Gets “Legal Custody” of the Family Pet After a Divorce?

Who gets legal custody of the family pet after divorce?

Amidst the decisions that need to be made before and during a divorce, one potentially perplexing question is about who gets the family pet. It is common that both separating partners, as well as any children, have become very attached to the family pet and are not willing to part with it.

The Law

Unfortunately, pets are considered property in the eyes of the Court. This is to say that custody will tend to fall to the owner. If it isn’t clear from registration documents, or the evidence of the veterinary clinic the Courts will determine ownership. If for example there are two pets and ownership is at issue the Courts may simply award one pet to each party.

What Are the Other Options for Where the Pet May End Up?

In many situations, parties deal with pets in the same manner as you would children. Here are some common outcomes you can expect when deciding who gets the family pet:

  • Split Custody: In this solution, the family pet splits time between both owners according to a pre-agreed upon schedule.
  • Full Custody: Another option is for complete ownership of the family pet to go to one of the separating parties.
  • Custody with Visitation Rights: The final option is for one of the separating parties to have ownership, but to allow the other to visit on a defined schedule.

If the divorce is messy, the option of split custody or custody with visitation will probably be out the window.

Acting in the Pet’s Best Interests

In the end, the decision for what to do with the family pet comes down to what course of action best serves the pet’s interests, provided that both parties have proven themselves to be capable owners and ownership is not clear.

For example, if one of the separating parties is moving far away, or there are children involved who have a strong emotional attachment toward the family pet, it will make sense to have the pet sent to the same home as them or with the party remaining in the same jurisdiction.

Finding a solution that satisfies all parties may be difficult. That’s why is it always advisable to talk to a lawyer in Newmarket, Richmond Hill, Barrie or your region to discuss your options and to learn about any specific details that may pertain to your situation.