British Columbia couples often argue over the division of marital property during a divorce. Few pieces of property elicit as emotional a reaction as pets, however. Determining who gets the family pet after a marriage ends can be a tricky subject, but courts generally look at a few factors to make their rulings.
Under the law, pets are seen as pieces of property. This means that if a pet was owned by one spouse prior to the marriage, it will usually count as non-marital property and be owned by that spouse after the marriage. Also, if a prenuptial agreement shows who will own the pet after divorce, this will usually dictate custody.
When these do not apply, a judge will generally have to make a ruling. The factors that a court may consider in order to determine pet custody include which spouse would be better equipped to care for the pet. If a spouse has a job that takes him or her away from home often or has a schedule that is inconsistent, this can count in the judge’s decision. If a spouse has been the primary caretaker of a pet, though, this can generally weigh in his or her favor. Showing proof that one spouse buys the pet food and other supplies, takes the pet for walks or is the one to take the pet to the veterinarian can go a long way toward that spouse retaining custody.
A lawyer may be able to help throughout this process, whether in negotiating who gets custody of a pet or any one of the numerous divorce legal issues. The lawyer may be especially useful during the valuation and division of property stages in order to help ensure a fair asset division.
Source: Forbes, “How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?“, Jeff Landers, April 17, 2014
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