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By Skye Wylde & Jackie Smith

Family & Relationship Lawyers

To many, pets are considered among the most valued members of the family.

It may therefore surprise some to learn how pets are dealt with at separation in family law matters.

Unlike in parenting matters (human children that is), where the court’s primary function is to make orders that are in the best interest of the children, pets are treated by the court as ‘property’– not dissimilar to a motor vehicle or furnishings – which we, as pet lovers ourselves, can appreciate may be difficult to fathom.

The most cost effective and sensible outcome for separating couples wishing to make care arrangements for their pets, or determine pet ownership post-separation, is by written agreement. This can take the form of an informal agreement or ideally, a formal agreement such as a Binding Financial Agreement or Consent Orders. Formal agreements are legally enforceable.

If you are unable to reach agreement, court proceedings may be commenced to determine ownership only. The court will not make orders for ongoing shared care arrangements for pets.

Court proceedings for these matters are rare and should only be considered upon all other avenues being exhausted.

When deciding ownership of pets, the court generally considers following factors:

  1. Who is listed as the registered owner;
  2. Who initially paid for the pet;
  3. Who primarily paid and cared for the pet day to day; and
  4. Who currently has possession of the pet.

We acknowledge this is often an emotionally charged area for separating couples, so allow us to help you navigate it.

If you have any questions about ownership of a pet following separation, property settlements or any other family law matter, visit our website here to book an initial consultation with our experienced Family Law Team.

Special mention and photo credit to Elba, our most valued team member.