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Where do the pets GO? When families separate....

Where do the Pets go When families separate

When families separate, often a pet is involved. In BC, a pet is considered property which meant that, if the parents could not otherwise agree, the Court could only apply the law involving the division of assets.

For example, if a pet was owned by one of the spouses before the marriage started then the pet could be considered excluded property and ordered to be returned to its owner regardless of any other factors such as the feelings of a child or proper care of the pet, etc. Further, since asset law was involved, only the Supreme Court not the Provincial Court had jurisdiction to deal with the pet, which is a more paper-intensive and expensive court process. See the decision of F.K.L. v D.M.A.T, 2020 BCSC 1296.

Now as of 15 January 2024 an amendment to the BC Family Law Act is in force creating a new law providing for "companion" animals so the Court can decide the ownership and possession of the family pet instead of being considered just property. In addition, this new law gives both the Provincial and the Supreme Court jurisdiction to decide about companion animals so separating families now have the choice of which court works best for them, if the parents cannot otherwise agree. For example, a family without significant assets and common law spouses who do not need a divorce could use the Provincial Court for all family law issues. F

urther, the free mediators called Justice Counselors can easily draft agreements for spouses and parents in Provincial Court.

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