When a couple heads for divorce, the law provides clear guidance for any disputes they cannot resolve. Laws dividing their assets and debts, calculating support payments and arranging parenting time all seek the best interests of those involved. However, it may not be so for Alberta couples who share pets. Family law has not quite caught up to changing trends in marriages.

Millennials who marry are more likely to remain childless, preferring to raise pets. When pets take the place of children in a couple’s life, the fate of the pet in a divorce can be emotional and contentious. Unfortunately, the courts still consider pets as property and may make rulings that are unpleasant, such as selling a dog and splitting the profits. A couple who cannot reach an agreement about how to share time with the pet and responsibility for its care may end up in a legal battle.

While the laws do not take into consideration the emotional attachment each spouse may have to a pet, some judges may have more compassion than others. Since the number of cases where divorcing couples dispute the fate of the pet are increasing, courts may have little choice but to consider the well-being of the animal when deciding who wins custody. Additionally, it is not unheard of for a judge to grant support payments to a spouse who wins custody of a pet.

Alberta couples who have raised animals together may have a heart-wrenching decision to make when they split up. When they cannot reach an agreement on their own, they may have to take the matter to court. While current family law does not include provisions for pets of divorce, a skilled family law professional can provide advocacy and support for a spouse who is fighting for custody of a beloved pet.