BC brings changes to family law to include pet ownership


VANCOUVER – Changes coming into effect Monday, Jan. 15, 2024, will reduce some of the difficulties for families going through separation or divorce in B.C., including those with pets.
The changes coming into effect improve the process for determining ownership and possession of companion animals following a separation or divorce. In the past, the factors that determined who kept companion animals after a relationship ended were the same as those for dividing other types of property.
“Going through separation or divorce is already difficult for couples and children. Our justice system should be there to help, not make it harder,” said Premier David Eby. “These changes include putting the health, safety and well-being of kids at the centre of every decision and using the actual experiences of families in the system to improve it. The initial changes also recognize that pets are an important part of the family and allow a child’s relationship with a pet to be considered and respected.”
To better serve people and animals involved, determining factors now include: each person’s ability and willingness to care for the animal; the relationship a child has with the animal; and if there are any risks of family violence or threats of cruelty to an animal.
Spouses are encouraged to make their own agreements about companion animals, with options to jointly own, share possession or give one spouse exclusive ownership or possession of the pet. However, if spouses cannot come to an agreement, they can ask the court to decide. In such cases, the Supreme Court or the provincial court can make an order that one person has possession and ownership of a companion animal. Companion animals does not refer to service or guide dogs, or agricultural livestock.
British Columbians will also have the opportunity to provide input into further changes to make family law work better for families.
After a successful first phase of public engagement, additional updates to the Family Law Act are being explored to reflect changes in society and developments in case law. Government is seeking input from the public on several topics, such as: family violence and protection orders; parenting assessments and views of the child reports; and time with and care of children.
“We are committed to making family law work better for families,” said Niki Sharma, Attorney General. “Public engagement is a crucial step in this process and we encourage everyone to share their experiences to help inform changes to family law that will ensure it reflects the changing needs and diversity of families today and tomorrow.”
Three surveys are available that anyone can complete based on their experiences with family law. A fourth survey considers the topics through an Indigenous perspective, providing another option for Indigenous people, or those who support them in family law matters, to participate. A discussion paper is available for those interested in commenting on these topics in more detail.
Public engagement will be open until March 31, 2024. Following this consultation, the ministry will report publicly on the findings, which will inform proposed amendments to the legislation.
To participate in the public engagement, visit:

Making Family Law Better for Families