In some cases, the issue is easily resolved by taking into account practical considerations:
- One of the separating couple will be rehousing in accommodation where the pet is unable to be housed (for example a Unit or rental property which disallows pets);
- The pet has a bond with one spouse in particular, and both parties agree that it would not work for the pet to be separated from this person; and
- The pet was for the children, so the parties agree that the pet will stay in the home where the children of the relationship will primarily live.
In more difficult cases, a Court can be asked to rule on who will retain the pets. While many owners treat their pets as if they were their own children, the Family Court’s approach is much less emotive. The Court considers a pet as property of the parties to the marriage (no different from cars or white goods).
The Court does, however, exercise an overriding principle of justice and equity and will do its best to accommodate the needs of both parties when dividing up property, including pets. A Judge will be guided by who initially bought or acquired the pet; who trained the pet or who performed the grooming; who has paid the veterinary fees and met the costs of caring for the pet; along with evidence from others concerning the bond the pet enjoys with one spouse or another.
Where children of the relationship exist and have a bond with the pet, a Judge may think that it is in the best interests of the children for the pet to pass with the children between the households, or that the pet live in the home where the children primarily reside.
If the pets are intended as breeding stock, then a valuation may be needed, and the party seeking to retain the pets may be required to meet a property adjustment in favour of the other party.
There are no hard and fast rules and the likelihood of one outcome over another will vary from case to case depending upon the facts and the exercise of the Court’s overriding discretion.
Our Toowoomba-based family law team has more than 30 years of experience in resolving family law matters and has a strong reputation for a solution-focused approach to all cases involving married and de facto couples.
Whether you are separated, divorced, or thinking about separating, we understand the impact that family disputes can have on your life, and appreciate that the legal process can be overwhelming during these difficult times. With our expertise in negotiation, mediation, and, where required, litigation and advocacy, we will provide clear and compassionate advice so that you can make fully informed choices.
Contact us for a free initial consultation* (conditions apply) with our senior family lawyer:
Phone: 07 4639 0358