Millions of people in Ontario own at least one pet. These animals can be a source of companionship and love, but they can also be a source of stress when pet owners split up.
We have discussed pet custody on this blog in the past, including a post on what makes pet issues so complicated. However, if you are ready to move forward with a plan to co-parent your pet after a divorce, there are some tips you might consider.
Take a realistic look at your situation: Does one person live in a home with a big backyard while the other person lives in a loft downtown? Does one of you have a job that requires extensive travel? Is there a clear primary caretaker?
These factors can reveal what living situations are best for a pet. Thinking pragmatically about who is able to provide the care and love an animal needs can help you arrive at an arrangement that is in your pet’s best interests.
Get your home ready
If you have your pet all or some of the time, make sure your house is safe and ready. You can do this in several ways.
- Be sure your lease or other contracts (if you have one) allow pets.
- Have a large and comfortable space for them to sleep and play.
- Stock up on the food, medicine, toys and other items your pet requires.
- If you are bringing your pet to Canada from another county, review the rules for doing so.
- Make sure the pet will be safe around other people or animals in your home.
Addressing these issues can alleviate the stress you and your pet may experience during transitions.
Put the details in writing
Whether you decide to trade off weeks, divide the time into weekdays and weekends or work out another pet parenting time arrangement, put the details in writing.
In addition to this schedule, you might also consider including in your plan:
- Instructions for resolving disputes
- Guidance on making medical decisions for the animal
- Rules or restrictions regarding your pet’s care
- Details on paying for pet-related expenses
Having this information in an accessible document can prevent confusion and make it easier to follow the rules.
These suggestions can help pet parents – and their beloved companions – adjust to a new normal.
But do not be fooled by the common sense suggestions in this blog post. As far as Ontario courts are concerned, pets are personal property. Who owns the pet? We don’t have a ‘best interests of the pet’ test. You will be far better off to sensibly negotiate a resolution with your former beloved friend/spouse/partner than to rely upon our legal system to really help do something that makes sense. Still, do get it all in writing and yes, you should use a lawyer to put it all into enforceable language. After all, a contract is a contract – even for your dog, cat, or goldfish.