What Happens to the Family Pet?
October 3, 2013 By: Erin Lepine and Alice Weatherston Read Time: 2 minutes

When relationships break down, there's more than just financial fallout. We've all heard about people fighting over custody of their children, but two Montreal parties are going to court over custody of their cat, Miley.

You may scoff at the notion, but your pet doesn't just have a financial value, most of us agree they have a personality. You've put the time and energy into raising and training your cat or dog, and the bond can be irreplaceable. When you're already facing a relationship breakdown, and need support, loosing your pet as well can be devastating. We'll be watching for the results from Criniti c. Desparois to clarify the law about what happens to pets in Quebec upon separation.

Generally, the courts have taken the view that family pets are property and should be divided accordingly. The reality is that for many people, pets are more like another member of the family, so this analysis doesn’t always seem comfortable.

When determining which spouse the pet belongs to, the court will actually consider factors that are similar to the factors we use to determine custody of children. For example, the court will consider who has been caring for the pet during the relationship and who has been caring for the pet after separation. Other factors that the court will also consider can include who purchased the pet, who trained it, whose name it is registered under, and who has paid for the pet’s expenses (and this is not an exhaustive list).

On at least one occasion, the court has made a 'shared ownership' order respecting a dog, which resulted in a week-on week-off ownership arrangement. The Court was clear in their analysis that this was an issue of ownership, but the result clearly resembles an order for custody.

While we understand the personal importance of this issue, you should be careful before bringing a court proceeding with respect to your pet. The result might be an order in the form of a property award, and if the court takes the view that the claim was frivolous it could also result in a costs order against you.

If you're interested in learning more about this topic, click here to read Erin's article "Who Gets the Dog?".

Also, Law Cat (who you can find in the Family Social), is really hoping to be retained on this case!

This content is not intended to provide legal advice or opinion as neither can be given without reference to specific events and situations. © 2019 Nelligan O’Brien Payne LLP.

Service: Child support