Mediation May Be Best Way To Divide Treasured Items & Pets
One of the most difficult aspects of a divorce in British Columbia may be the division of assets. And while determining the allocation of financial and real estate holdings can be complicated, sometimes it’s the little things that cause emotions to run high. There may be many shared possessions a couple accumulates during a life together which neither wants to give up for sentimental reasons. Even arrangements for beloved pets need to be made, and mediation offers a good environment for making these choices. One Canadian judge recently decided that even though pets feel like family, they are possessions in the eyes of the law.
In April of this year, a Saskatchewan couple chose to divorce after 16 years of marriage. The couple had no children, but they did own three dogs, and they went to court prepared to fight for custody over two of the pups, much in the same way parents would battle over custody of their children. The wife’s lawyers even went so far as to portray the husband as a “cat person” who should only be allowed visitation rights.
The judge rejected the request for a custody proceeding, citing many examples of how children differ from domestic animals. Though he acknowledged many owners treat their pets like family, pets are property and do not have familial rights. He also issued a warning to the couple that asking the courts to decide on the fate of their dogs might have unexpected consequences: should the court fail to reach a decision, the dogs could be ordered sold and the proceeds divided between the two parties.
In a divorce, all belongings need to be split up. Clearly, leaving it up to the courts to decide the fate of treasured items is inherently risky. Fortunately, British Columbia residents have the option to mediate their divorce, giving them the opportunity to make decisions with the help of neutral outsiders. By partnering with a caring representative of a family law firm, it may be possible to find solutions through mediation that please everyone involved.
Source: theguardian.com, “Judge rules pet dogs cannot be treated as children in Canada custody dispute“, Ashifa Kassam, Dec. 19, 2016