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During a Divorce, What Happens to The Family Pet?

Divorce is challenging for all involved, including the family pet. For many, pets are more than just animals; they are beloved members of the family. So, what happens to them when a couple decides to part ways? At Divorce is Simple, a divorce mediation company operating in Ontario, Canada, we understand the emotional complexities surrounding this issue and aim to provide clarity and solutions through mediation.

kayaking with dog

Understanding the Legal Perspective

In Ontario, pets are considered property under the law. This means that, unlike children, there is no legal framework specifically designed to determine custody or visitation rights for pets. Instead, pets are treated similarly to other personal property, such as furniture or vehicles. However, this legal perspective often clashes with the emotional bonds that families have with their pets.

Why Mediation is the Best Approach

Litigation can be adversarial and cold, reducing the chances of reaching an amicable solution that respects the emotional connections between individuals and their pets. Mediation, on the other hand, allows for a more compassionate approach. Here’s why mediation is beneficial for resolving pet-related disputes during a divorce:

  1. Focus on Emotional Bonds: Mediation recognizes the emotional importance of pets and prioritizes their well-being and the relationships they have with their owners.

  2. Customized Agreements: Unlike court rulings, mediation allows couples to create customized agreements that suit their unique circumstances. This might include shared custody, visitation schedules, or even financial support for pet care.

  3. Reduced Stress: The mediation process is typically less stressful and confrontational than litigation, fostering a cooperative environment where both parties can discuss their concerns openly.

Considerations During Mediation

When mediating pet-related issues, several factors should be considered to reach a fair and amicable agreement:

  1. Primary Caregiver: Determine who has been the primary caregiver for the pet, including responsibilities like feeding, walking, grooming, and vet visits.

  2. Living Arrangements: Consider the living arrangements post-divorce. Which household is better suited to meet the pet’s needs in terms of space, environment, and time?

  3. Emotional Attachments: Acknowledge the emotional attachments each party has to the pet and strive to find a solution that respects these bonds.

  4. Pet’s Well-being: The pet’s well-being should be the top priority. Consider what arrangement would cause the least stress and disruption for the pet.

Crafting a Pet Agreement

dog on beach

During mediation, couples can draft a pet agreement that outlines how they will share responsibilities and time with their pet. This agreement can include specifics such as:

  • Custody Schedule: Detail how custody will be shared, including weekends, holidays, and vacations.

  • Financial Responsibilities: Specify who will be responsible for ongoing expenses such as food, grooming, veterinary care, and insurance.

  • Decision-Making: Agree on how decisions about the pet’s health and well-being will be made.

  • Emergency Plans: Outline steps to take in case of emergencies, ensuring the pet’s safety and care are prioritized.


At Divorce is Simple, we believe that mediation offers the most humane and effective way to resolve pet-related issues during a divorce. By focusing on cooperation and mutual respect, mediation can help ensure that your beloved pet continues to receive the love and care they deserve, even as your family dynamics change.

If you’re navigating a divorce and worried about what will happen to your family pet, consider mediation as a peaceful and compassionate solution. Contact Divorce is Simple in Ontario, Canada, to learn more about how we can assist you in finding a resolution that works for everyone—especially your furry friend. Ready to get started? Book a consultation today to learn more about how we can assist you with your divorce.

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Disclaimer: The information provided does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice and instead all information, content, and materials available are for general informational purposes only. Divorce is Simple is not a law firm.

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