When couples separate, the main source of conflict in a family law dispute is often the house and the children. But who gets to keep the dog (or other loved family pet) when a family is divided?
According to the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), pets are considered property in the same way as furniture, a fridge or computer and the law does not specifically provide for how a Court determines who keeps a pet after a separation.
As with furniture and other personal possessions, the Court is reluctant to divide these items and, instead, the parties are strongly encouraged to reach an agreement between them. This is often a difficult process when pets are considered part of the family, not part of the furniture.
Some separated couples choose to have their pets move between homes with the children, others choose a two week on/two week off basis. There is no set arrangement that will work for every situation. Shared care may seem like a “fair” solution but things to consider when thinking about who pets will live with (and on what basis), are yard size, work and social commitments of the parties and financial support for the pet.
Where parties are unable to reach agreement as to living arrangements or ownership of a pet, or other types of property, financial or family law matters, Parry Coates Family Law can assist you in reaching an agreement.
When reaching an agreement, it is important to have the agreement formalised, otherwise either party can seek to have a new and different arrangement made in the future.
There are two ways you can formalise any agreement reached:
- a Consent Order; or
- a Binding Financial Agreement.
Either arrangement can include, for example, arrangements for the custody of the pet, who is responsible for vet bills and where the pet will go when one person goes on holiday.
Parry Coates Family Law can assist with all aspects of your property division, including your much-loved family pet. For further information, please contact one of our team for advice on 3532 3826 or visit our website www.pcfl.com.au.