Recently, an older case with an interesting issue came to my attention: Based on the underlying premise that family pets are property, can a court order pet custody to be transferred as part of a divorce?
In Grimalyuk v. Concelos, the couple lived together for three years, and then got married. About three months into the marriage, the husband started to get physically and emotionally abusive with the wife, and with her 18-year old son from another relationship. The husband assaulted the wife on several occasions, and at one point attempted to evict them both from the matrimonial home.
Eventually, the wife had the husband arrested and charged with death threats, and the police removed him bodily from the matrimonial home. He entered into a Peace Bond agreeing to have no contact with the wife for a 12-month period, and agreeing to attend alcohol counselling.
Not surprisingly, at this point the wife decided the two-year marriage was over, and she successfully went to court to obtain a divorce. (The court also agreed to extend the restraining order for another year, since the husband had been seen skulking around the wife’s property despite having been ordered not to).
Beyond that, there was only one property-related issue still to be dealt with in the divorce: It related to what should be done with the family pets.
As the court explained, wife’s request in this regard was straightforward:
Equalization of Property
The only property sought by [the wife] is legal ownership of two dogs and one cat that are legally owned by [the husband] but have been living with and cared for by [the wife] since the date of separation.
Without hesitation, the court ordered that the husband transfer legal ownership of the three pets to the wife immediately.
It goes to show you: While many people complaint that their divorces go very badly, this one “went to the dogs.”
For the full text of the decision, see:
Grimalyuk v. Concelos, 2007 CanLII 1325 (ON SC)