Pets in Family Law Matters – Who gets to keep them? Are there visitation rights?

Children’s contact is a very important aspect for both couples, in a separation or divorced relationship. This is also true of Furbabies and other pets. How, when, and how long each parent will be able to maintain contact with their pets can lead to very argumentative negotiations.

Family Law Matters – Pets, who gets to keep them? Are there visitation rights?

For a lot of households, their dog or their cat are considered to be a part of their family. Simply put, another member of the household. Naturally then, when people separate, they will sometimes be arguments about who gets custody over pets as well as Children or how that pet is to spend time with both parties.

Pets are property in the eyes of the Law

In Family law, pets and other animals are ‘personal property’ and routinely treated as such. This means that the Family Court has jurisdiction to hear and can make orders about who gets ownership of that pet. The court will not make orders in relation to visitation the same as with Children. You cannot file an Initiating Application for Child-related proceedings for your furbaby, but it can be dealt with in Family Court property proceedings. The Family Court can make orders for property to be maintained by both parties as they do for holiday homes or investment properties. The Family Court can make orders for when a pet is to be in the possession of which party and who is to pay for outgoings like vet bills, food, etc.

What does the Family Court Consider?

In financial proceedings, arguments about ownership of a pet can be complex. There are many factors that the Court will take into account when deciding who will get ownership of a pet.  For example, factors that the Court will take into account are things such as who bought the pet, who the pet is registered to, and who pays for the food and vet bills. 

Both parties should seek to avoid the costs of court action by coming to an agreement. For certainty and clarity, the written agreement should be written down in very simple language and explain all aspects of visitation, maintenance, and an emergency plan. Our Family Law Lawyers are ready to help you negotiate, draft, and formalise an agreement. 

Benefits of speaking to a Family Lawyer sooner

A family dissolution is a very emotional situation and can be confronting talking to your former partner about these issues. Hiring a professional lawyer can help you get through the process by helping to avoid direct confrontation. To that end, you should also speak to our Family Law Lawyers about negotiating a possible outcome and drafting a written agreement hopefully avoiding the costs associated with going to Family Court. 

Please note that nothing here should be taken as legal advice or a substitute for speaking to a lawyer from our office directly. If you have any questions, you can reach one of us on 08 63238613.  

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