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Be careful arguing over pets during a divorce, judge warns

When two people choose to end a marriage, they have begun what can be a very long process. Even couples without children have many details that need to be settled during the divorce. For example, everything accumulated during the relationship needs to be divided between the two parties, from homes and cars all the way down to knick-knacks and cutlery. And for some people, difficult decisions must be made about pets; one judge from west of Ontario is recommending they be made outside the courtroom. 

A couple going through a divorce in Saskatchewan decided to take their dispute over ownership of two of their three dogs to court. The woman requested the court treat the issue like a custody case, and went so far as to submit a document detailing her estranged husband's history of cat ownership. She requested he be granted visitation rights only.

In a 15-page decision, the judge explained that he could not award visitation because pets are possessions and have no familial rights. He listed several ways in which children differ from dogs, and drew a comparison between visitation rights for dogs and visitation rights for butter knives. He chastised the couple for wasting time and resources, and also issued a warning: since pets are possessions in the eyes of the law, the court must treat them as such. This means if the court could not reach a decision regarding a home for the dogs, they could be sold and the proceeds divided between the two parties.

It is natural to become emotionally attached to certain belongings, and of course to pets. As this case illustrates, however, a courtroom may not be the best place to decide the fate of beloved possessions. By working with family law lawyers in Ontario, couples working through a divorce may find a better way to settle their disputes and divide their most precious assets.

Source: CBC News - Saskatchewan, "Judge rules dogs should not be treated like kids", Geoff Leo, Dec. 18, 2016

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