Who gets to keep the pet after separation?
Is your pet a ‘member of your family’? What happens to your pet when the family breaks down? Who gets custody in separation or divorce?
If you cannot agree as to who will get to keep ‘Fido’ or ‘Fluffy’ then it may be necessary to ask a Court to make an order. Pets are not referred to in the Family Law Act and are therefore treated as personal property. Before making a decision, the Court will consider the merit of each parties case. The party who can convince the Court that they are the rightful custodian of the pet may (likely) be the one who is awarded custody.
Here are some tips that may assist you to keep, or be ordered to have custody of your pet in the event of separation:
1. Registered the pet in your name.
2. Record yourself as the contact person on the microchip.
3. Have vet receipts issued in your name.
4. Take your pet to puppy school/cat school – and make sure it is registered in your name.
5. Take lots of photos of you spending time with your pet including photos taken at behaviour classes.
6. Provide evidence that you have enough room and are allowed to have pets in your post separation residence (particularly if you are renting).
7. Be the person who feeds your pet and (if appropriate) takes it for walks.
8. Always have some pet treats in your pocket. It is not uncommon for a mediator to test the pet to see which parent it will come too first.
9. The more time you spend with your pet before and after separation, the more likely your pet will be more attached to you and you will be more likely to be awarded ‘sole parenting orders’ for your pet.
The Family Court does not generally make orders for ‘shared custody’ of a pet unless both parties agree. It will, however, if asked to make a decision make a decision that is in the best interests of the animal.