A Ruff Day in Family Law: Deciding Who Gets the Family Pet in a Separation

  • January 31, 2023
  • Olivia Koneval-Brown, Mann Lawyers LLP

There are many people who will bring their pet into a relationship or will, together as a couple, adopt or purchase a pet for their household. With more people having a work-from-home set up, we have seen the number of pets in homes increase over the course of the pandemic. The question then becomes, how do we deal with these furry little family members on separation?

In my practice as a family law lawyer, I have seen the number of cases involving pets become more prevalent. I have dealt mostly with dogs and cats, but have had the occasional fish, bird, and even snail swim, fly or slowly cross my desk.

People are attached to their pets. Many will fight for them quite strongly or at least want time with them after the separation. If there are children involved, some people will agree that the pets travel with the child at parenting exchanges. Others will create a separate schedule for the pet. Some people are willing to split up their pets if there is more than one. Others will part with them but want to negotiate terms that ensure their pets are taken care of. However, if parties cannot agree, then family lawyers are left turning to the case law to see what way they can best assist the parties, both in and out of court – and yes, these cases can go to court.