Should pets be a legal consideration when it comes to divorce?

Poll: Pets and divorce

The important role pets play in families who are separating is being addressed in proposed amendments to British Columbia's Family Law Act.

Attorney General Niki Sharma says amendments she introduced in B.C.'s legislature will clarify the law around pets, property and pensions for couples and families going through a separation or divorce.

She says the amendments, if passed, will provide more guidance for people and judges involved in a legal dispute.

The changes would require the consideration of factors that include each person's ability and willingness to care for a pet, the relationship a child has with the animal and the risk of family violence or threat of cruelty.

Sharma says other proposed amendments to the law would include making it easier to equitably divide property and improve the division of pensions.

The government says in a statement that the amendments are based on a review over several years of the Family Law Act to address both changes in society and developments in case law.

Sharma says in the statement that dividing a family can be an incredibly difficult experience and the changes will help make that easier.

She says the proposed amendments "better reflect the priorities and values of people today, including making sure the important role pets play in families is considered in the separation process."

V. Victoria Shroff, an animal law specialist at Shroff and Associates, says the changes reflect how pets are valued as unique family members by society, rather than inanimate property like furniture.

"Having relevant factors to consider for these difficult decisions will bring more clarity and is a welcome change," she says in the statement.

Another proposed change would make it easier to equally divide property by preventing the use of an outdated principle called the presumption of advancement, the government says.

"Historically, this principle applied only to property transferred from husband to wife, not a wife to their husband, or between same-sex spouses or unmarried spouses," the statement says.

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