What Happens to Family Pets in a Divorce in Ontario?
In Ontario, family pets are considered to be property under the law, and they are subject to the same property division rules as other assets and debts in a divorce. This means that the ownership of the pet will be determined based on who legally owns it.
If the pet was owned by one spouse before the marriage, it will generally be considered that spouse’s property and they will likely retain ownership of the pet. However, if the pet was acquired during the marriage and both spouses have cared for and bonded with the pet, the court may consider factors such as who has been the primary caregiver, who spends more time with the pet, and who is better suited to provide for the pet’s needs when determining ownership.
It’s worth noting that the courts in Ontario do not have the authority to make orders for custody or access of pets. This means that, unlike residential arrangements for children, there is no legal mechanism for determining who gets to keep the pet or how visitation with the pet will be arranged. Instead, it’s up to the divorcing spouses to work out a mutually acceptable arrangement for the care and ownership of the pet, through negotiation or mediation. A list of issues to discuss could include vet appointments if the pet is sick or injured, end of life decisions, pet insurance, and pet expenses.
If the divorcing spouses are unable to come to an agreement on the ownership of the pet, the court may order the sale of the pet and divide the proceeds between the spouses, or the court may award ownership to one of the spouses based on the property division rules. However, the court will generally try to avoid such an outcome, if possible, as it is not in the best interests of the pet or either of the spouses.
By having a plan in place, it will avoid unnecessary conflict in the future should an issue about your pet be presented. Book a FREE, 30-minute, joint, online consultation to learn more about the mediation process and how we can support you through your separation.