Many people have family pets that they consider to be members of the family. However, when spouses separate, they must determine who gets to keep the pet. In British Columbia, pets are not treated like children and are considered to be property. As a result, for couples who are either married or who have lived in a marriage-like relationship for two years, any pets of the relationship are generally divided along with the rest of the property of the relationship according to the Family Law Act.
If a separating couple decides to go to Court to determine who gets to keep their pet, the Court will award the pet to one of the spouses. There are a number of factors that may help determine who gets to keep the family pet, including:
- How the couple acquired the pet and who paid for it;
- Who pays for most of the pet’s expenses;
- Whether one person has a closer bond with the pet;
- Who took care of the pet;
- Who is the registered owner of the pet; and
- Who has been taking care of the pet since the couple separated?
Although, many people treat their pets like children, a Judge will not order that two people share time with their pet like a Court would normally do with a child. For this reason, and because going to Court can be very unpredictable, it may be a good idea for a separating couple to come to an agreement as to how they will share time with their pet. A separating couple can agree to share a pet or otherwise resolve pet custody issues through a Consent Order or through a Separation Agreement.