How Do I Get My Pet Bunny Back From My Ex In Our Divorce?

Under Ontario’s current Family Law Legislation, pets, of any sort, are not treated like children. They are, for all purposes of law, “property,” like furniture or cars or bank accounts. So, judges do not decide things on the basis of the “best interests of the pet,” the way judges decide parenting issues on the basis of the best interest of the child.

Since the “best interests” do not factor into the decision about who gets your bunny, the issue about who gets to have the bunny is determined by who owns the bunny or who can prove to have a “title” to the bunny.

To answer whether you can get your bunny back, you have to understand how property division works on separation and divorce, which is explained in this video and this podcast. It is important to note that being married in Ontario does not give spouses any ownership interest in each other’s stuff. So, the bunny belongs to whoever paid for it, or if there happen to be pedigree papers, the owner listed on that or other paperwork that proves ownership. Ownership does not change just because spouses are married or divorced. Under Part I of the Family Law Act, married spouses share in the value of each other’s property but do not own each other’s stuff in any way – unless they bought something in joint names.

Ontario’s Family Law does not give common-law couples any right to property division or any ownership in each other’s stuff. It is possible that if both spouses contributed to the value of the bunny they will both become owners pursuant to the principles of Equity, which are explained more in the link above about property division and common law relationships.

So, if you own the bunny, and your spouse does not, then and your spouse will not turn the bunny over, you may have to start court proceedings. Rule 44 of the Rules of Civil Procedure gives the Court the power to Order the Sheriff’s office go to wherever your ex is living and recover items that you have proven to the Court belong to you. The procedure is quite complex, and you will definitely need a lawyer to assist both with getting the Order and with arranging the necessary security for damages that the Court Rule requires.

If you and your spouse own the bunny jointly, then the situation becomes much more complex. You must bring a Family Court Application under section 10 of the Family Law Act for a determination that you are the rightful sole owner of the bunny based on the “Principals of Equity” rather than the title (because you have contributed more to the value of the bunny than your spouse). Alternatively, you can claim, under that section, that you should be the owner who has possession of the bunny because you will “preserve the asset” better. 

However, where there is joint ownership, and one owner does not want to buy out the other, Judges do not try to determine the value of assets, including bunnies, or force one party to buy out the other’s interest in the bunny. The judge will just order that the bunny be sold on the open market and the proceeds of the sale divided between the owners (again Ontario Law treats pets as “property” and not as children). The judge may order that either party can put in offers/bids to buy the bunny with the bunny being sold at the highest price. Alternatively, the judge may order that neither party can try to buy the bunny if that would be best for all concerned.

John Schuman Guide to the Basics of Ontario Family Law book cover

You can get a lot more information about Ontario Family Law issues, including a comprehensive explanation of parenting cases (parenting time and decision making), child support, spousal support, property division, and most other common family law issues by downloading this $9.99 Kindle eBook, Kobo eBook, or iBook for your iPad or iPhone or ordering it from Amazon as a paperback. But to understand how the law works precisely in your situation, it is always best to speak to a good Family Law Lawyer.

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