Q: My wife and I are in the process of divorcing and I received ownership of the family dog in the mediation agreement. My wife babysat the dog for a weekend while I was away and is now refusing to return it to me. Is the dog considered property and what are options and is there any way to get the dog back?
A: Surprisingly, the family pet is something we hear a lot about. Although technically not property, the family pet is often a family treasure that can cause a lot of pain. As with any issue in a separation and divorce, it is always best to try to resolve the issues by clear communication and negotiation. Your best bet would be to try to deal with the pet the same way you might deal with custody-and-access issues regarding children.
In fact, I have negotiated several cases where the dog goes back and forth with the children. But if there are no children involved, then you and your ex should consider setting up a calendar arrangement where you could share the dog that would work for both of you. If you can’t come to an agreement, then consider that most mediation agreements have a provision for going back and doing some remediation should the agreement be breached. If you aren’t able to work this out between the two of you, then it may be helpful to return to your advisors and re-negotiate an agreement in good faith.
Debbie Hartzman is a certified divorce financial anylyst with Professional Investments in Kingston, Ontario.