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How pets figure into property division

One of the most challenging parts of divorce is how marital property is divided. Some British Columbia residents might be surprised to hear that in the course of property division talks, a subject that comes up regularly is the family pet. This is a unique part of a divorce settlement and can be handled a variety of ways. 

Strictly speaking, while pets are not really property, they are not handled the same way as children in a "custody" sense (though some litigators and courts are more open to the idea of viewing the issues in a similar light). With that said, ownership of the pet can be disputed and is often a more emotional topic than simple property division. This has largely to do with the fact that unlike a car or house, couples are often not as inclined to sell the animal and split the accrued assets. 

Depending upon the situation, some couples are able to come to an amicable "calendar agreement." This works similarly to a child custody agreement, but only in terms of where the dog will be at a given time. Issues such as vet bills and other costs will need to be negotiated as well. Usually, it is possible to do this in good faith with the support of experienced attorneys on both sides of the divorce negotiations. 

Divorce is complicated, and property division is no exception. For pet-owning couples, it can be hugely beneficial to discuss issues like pet ownership in advance of sitting down to work out the divorce specifics. British Columbia residents have access to a wide variety of resources to help them reach these goals. 

Source:, "Divorce advice: How can I get my ex-wife to return my dog?", Debbie Hartzman, Dec. 9, 2016

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