Separation: what happens to pets?

Pets do not have the same legal status as children, although we often consider them part of our family. At the time of a separation, animals are treated as objects (just like furniture or jewelry!) If you separate from your spouse, who will keep the cat, the dog, the turtle or even the parrot?

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General rule: the animal stays with its owner

To keep the animal after your separation, it will be necessary to prove that you are the owner. This is the case if you have personally adopted or purchased the animal, for example. This is also the case if your ex-spouse had offered it to you.

If no one can prove who owns it, the judge will decide. Same thing if you bought or adopted your pet together. In general, the judge will not take into account the preferences of the animal. For example, the fact that your animal is more attached to you than to your ex-spouse will generally not have an impact on the decision.

Options other than court: agreement and mediation

Other options exist to decide the fate of your animal. You could thus avoid legal proceedings which can be long and costly.

During the relationship, you can sign an agreement that stipulates which spouse will keep the animal if you separate one day. You could even plan for “shared custody” of the animal.

If you have not signed such an agreement, you can address the issue in family mediation in the event of a disagreement. This process will help you make a decision together, accompanied by a family mediator who will guide you during the negotiations.

Informative text – This text does not constitute legal advice; it is recommended that you consult a lawyer or notary for such advice. Éducaloi is a non-profit organization whose mission is to inform Quebecers of their rights and obligations in clear language.

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