So you have recently separated from your significant other, and now face the question as to who gets the pets? For most, our fury friends are more than just a pet and often seen as members of the family. This makes the decision of ‘who retains the pets’ a particularly difficult and stressful one.
The Family Law Act 1975 (Cth) does not contain any specific provisions in relation to pets. As such, the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia is unlikely to make orders in relation to the care arrangements of a pet, or to consider the best interests of a pet as it would for children.
Where does that leave you?
Pets are classified as property in Australia. In technical terms, a pet is owned by the person in whose name it is registered. This becomes more complicated following separation, as one party may not necessarily retain an item of property despite it being held in his/her name.
If two parties cannot reach agreement as to who retains a pet, they may initiate proceedings in Court in relation to property settlement. This is a costly and time-consuming process and should only be considered as a last resort following attempts at negotiation.
Should the matter proceed to Court, the Court will likely consider issues such as;
- in whose name the pet is registered,
- who financially acquired the pet,
- who undertook everyday tasks in relation to the pet (i.e. feeding, walking grooming), and
- who has the financial capacity to maintain the future needs of the pet.
If you have children, a factor of consideration may be the primary residence of the children and keeping the pets together with the children to prevent them from becoming distressed or upset. It is not unusual for family pets to travel
with children as per their care arrangements.
One way to ensure that your pet will remain in your care should you and your partner separate, is to incorporate your pet into a binding financial agreement together with the rest of your assets and liabilities.
If you need assistance or advice in relation to property settlement, we encourage you to contact Adelaide Family Law on (08) 8113 3111 to organise an appointment with one of our experienced Family Law Practitioners.