Despite the important role pets play in our lives, in Australia our family law legislation makes no express reference to animals. Therefore in the eyes of the Family Court our loving pets are considered property just the same as a car or sofa, and just like a car or sofa, in the event of a separation and property dispute the Court will usually allocate ownership to one party. What this also means is that you cannot make an Application to the Court for them to determine custody arrangements for your pet, just as you would for children.
However, as the number of couples opting to have fur children only is on the rise, could there be change on the horizon regarding how the court treats pets? In Alaska for example, legislation was passed earlier this month requiring the court to take into account “the wellbeing of the animal” when making decisions when it comes to pets caught up in divorce proceedings. Additionally, these new laws also make legal joint custody of a pet an option.
Whilst we hope Australian family law moves towards recognising the ever increasing role of pets in our families, in the meantime there are other options available to you when it comes to pets and separation that do not involve the intervention of the Court. At Family Law Matters we understand that pets are more than just property and can help you and your ex-partner reach an agreement to ensure the health and happiness of your pet following separation.
Alternatively, if your relationship is going paw-fectly and you’re ready to make a fur-ever commitment, we can help ensure that Fido remains yours whatever may happen.
If you would like to discuss your fur babies please call us on (02) 9523 3007 or complete the contact form.