What You Should Know
Pets are defined as property under Alberta law, although it may not seem fair, in the divorce process your pets will be treated more similarly to a car than a beloved family member. When legally dividing property, it does not necessarily just mean the pets will go to the person who signed an adoption agreement or purchased it.
Proof of ownership will be a main determining factor in the decision; however, ownership can be proved in multiple ways.
Standard Proof of Ownership Documents:
- Adoption Agreement or Purchase Contract
- Name listed on Veterinary Bills
- Owner listed on Municipal or City pet License
Providing regular care and maintenance for the pet may also be used and proof of ownership if you can provide adequate evidence:
- Regularly buying Pet Food and Supplies
- Taking the pet to grooming appointments
- Taking the pet to the veterinary clinic
It is important to put your pet’s best interest first. One way to achieve this is by discussing ownership of your family pets before it becomes a legal dispute.
If the pet clearly belongs to one partner, they can be listed as the primary or sole owner on documents, while the other partner can be listed as secondary or as an emergency contact.
For pets who equally belong to both parties, you can create a shared custody agreement where both parties involved are able to spend time with the pet.
If sharing custody is not an option it is important to evaluate what would be best for the pet, not the people involved in the situation.
Some questions to ask when creating a divorce plan for your pet:
- Did the pet belong to one partner before the relationship started?
- Who is better prepared to financially care for the pet?
- Who is able to spend the most time with the pet (work hours, out of town travel, etc.)
- Is the pet more bonded to one person
- Do you see big changes in your future that may affect this pet (moving, new children, increased work schedule, etc.)
- What will be the least stressful option for this pet?