For many families, pets are considered a valued and beloved member of the family. Pets bring to families an abundance of joy and happiness and people can form strong emotional attachments to their pets.
So, what happens to pets when people separate or divorce?
Whilst some people consider their pets to be a member of their family, or even consider their pets to be their children, the Family Law Act (“the Act”) does not share the same perspective. Under the Act, pets are considered “property”. This means the courts consider pets in a similar way to personal property such as motor vehicles and electronic goods. Therefore, when deciding who will get the pet, courts will look at section 79 of the Act. Examples include the following:
Who contributed to the purchase of the pet;
Under which parties name is the pet registered under;
Who looked after and fed the pet;
Who contributed to the purchase of the pet’s food and the pet’s regular veterinary bills;
Which party has a “need” for the pet when moving forward beyond their relationship
Another example is when parties share joint custody of their children following separation. A court may make orders that when a child travels between households to spend time with their parent, that the pet accompanies the child also. It is viewed by the courts that it will give the child security and will assist them in the transition with travelling from one parent house to the other following their separation.
Therefore, when coming to an agreement as to how to divide property between your spouse after separation, you will need to ensure a provision is included as to which party should have “ownership” of the pet.
This article is intended only to provide a summary of the subject matter covered. It does not purport to be comprehensive or to render legal advice. No reader should act on the basis of any matter contained in this article without first obtaining specific professional advice.
DISCLAIMER: We accept no responsibility for any action taken after reading this article. It is intended as a guide only and is not a substitute for the expert legal advice you can get from De Marco Lawyers and other relevant experts.