Who gets the pet in a divorce?

by Peter Magee on December 17, 2011

Peter MageeAn article titled “Fur flies as Parting Couples Fight for Custody of Pets” was published in the Herald Sun on 6 August 2011.

The article, written by Callie Watson, discusses how couples are increasingly seeking to arrange how time with their pets is to be divided between them following separation. According to Watson, clients may be inclined to settle for less money in order to keep the family pet, or they may arrange for the pet to live with each of them in a week about arrangement.

Watson states that most of these arrangements happen outside of the Court. The reason for this may be that in reality the Family Courts in Australia do not have the power to make an order about where a pet is to reside or who the pet is to spend time with. The Courts only have this power in relation to children of the relationship.

However, pets are regarded as property and therefore the Court does theoretically have the power to make orders about who will have ownership and possession of the pet.

If you are in the process of separation, you may consider where your pet should reside and come to an informal agreement with your ex partner regarding this. A key factor may be who is to retain the matrimonial home as it may make sense for the pet to remain with the former matrimonial home.

Alternately, if the children are to reside with one of you for the majority of the time, it may also make sense for the pet to reside at that residence as the family pet may assist with providing the children with some sense of stability.

You may also consider if the pet has a significant monetary value, although usually pets do not have a significant monetary value and in fact are, from a financial point of view, a burden on whoever is to retain them. If, however, the pet is a pedigree show dog or show ca,t then its value will be taken into account on a “balance sheet” of the property you and your ex partner own, in a similar way to any other personal property.

If you have any further questions regarding your separation or your pet please do not hesitate to contact us at Armstrong Legal on 9261 4555.

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