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New property division law regarding "pet custody"

While the divorce rate has evened out considerably over the last 10 years, divorce is still a relatively common phenomenon in Canada. Here in British Columbia, one of the most contentious parts of a divorce is property division. Family pets are included under that umbrella, to date inhabiting a grey area of the law. However, one American state is approaching "pet custody" in a new light, a move that could influence how the issue is handled in divorces on both sides of the border. 

As it stands today, pets are technically considered property, and so most Canadian and American courts refuse to entertain so-called "pet custody" issues. While some courts will allow a divorcing couple to create a schedule of custody for a beloved pet, such agreements are certainly not held in the same esteem as those pertaining to children. However, one lawmaker is attempting to pass a bill in his state that would change all that. 

This new bill, being put forward by a state representative in Rhode Island, mirrors a similar bill introduced in Alaska. This bill would require judges presiding over divorce cases to consider the pet's welfare in a similar way as they would in a child custody case, by reviewing the case and making a determination about which household the pet would thrive in. While this bill has yet to be passed into law, it does represent a change in the way lawmakers think about four-legged family members. 

In divorce, and particularly in property division, what a British Columbia couple might value can vary from case to case. This is why the law must adapt over the course of time to best serve the public interest. As such, it is incumbent upon a couple to understand their respective rights and responsibilities under the law governing their divorce, which is why the support of an experienced divorce attorney can be so valuable to each individual. 

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