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How family law handles pet ownership

Many people identify as animal lovers, and households across Canada often include one or more pets. Many British Columbia residents facing divorce, however, are obviously concerned about the specifics of pet custody in the event of a divorce. Family law handles this issue in a variety of ways, depending on the unique specifics of the given divorce.

Technically speaking, pets are still considered property with a monetary value associated with them. While some courts are becoming open to the idea of pet custody agreements that share some similarities with child custody agreements, this is by no means the norm. A pet is an asset, and generally the same rules apply to them as to any non-living asset like a home or a car.

Of course, it is not possible to split a live asset like a dog or a cat, barring a mutual agreement between spouses about visitation/custody. In some cases, one spouse can "buy out" the other for full ownership of the animal, based on objective criteria like health, age and breed. The responsibility of caring for the animal is usually remanded to the spouse with primary custody of the pet, but again, the law can be flexible on this point if an agreement can be reached.

While British Columbia residents should not necessarily expect pet custody to be treated with the same gravitas as custody of dependent children, it is nevertheless a common and important part of the divorce process. Seeking the advice of a family law expert in all aspects of a divorce, including pet custody, is a good place to start. Depending on the particulars of the divorce in question, the help of a family law attorney can facilitate a mutually beneficial agreement.

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