But What About the Family Pet?
While most associate family law with the division of assets, and custody and access to children, for some separating couples another important piece of a separation agreement is deciding what to do with the family pet, and what rights and obligations they have in with regard to their dog, cat, bird or other animal upon marriage or relationship breakdown.
In Canada, there is no regime in place that would assign “custody” or “access” to a pet, in the same way it would for a human child. While 9 out of 10 of people polled stated they considered their pet to be a part of the family, the Canadian court system considers our beloved pets as “chattel” in a family law dispute. This means they are dealt with in the same way that a car, couch or lamp are dealt with – the subject of division between the parties based on its value.
What this means for your family is this: the family dog, cat or other animal is a piece of property, which means one party will be able to keep it, and the other party has no right to access or visits with the pet. Some decisions in Canadian court have strayed far from this model though, in the case of Rogers v Rogers, 1980 CarswellOnt 2449.  OJ no 2229 where the judge took a hybrid approach between custody and property, where the judge stated that the husband owns the dog, but the wife was allowed access similar to that of a parent with a child – every second weekend and Wednesday evenings. This decision has not had a meaningful impact on family law, and as it stands, a judge is more likely to inquire who bought the pet, who paid for their food and other questions to show who “owns” the dog, as one would own a rug.
But, with a family law lawyer and opting to prepare a separation agreement instead of proceeding to court, your family can have a curated agreement that allows an access arrangement for your beloved dog. A family law lawyer can craft clauses that reflect your family’s situation, and accurately portray how you want your family to look moving forward, including Fido. This is just one of the many benefits to a separation agreement over going to court. With our assistance at Borden Family Lawyers we can work to make this process as stress free and painless as possible.