We all love our pets and consider them as part of the family. However, when it comes to separation and divorce, those delightful “fur babies” are in fact property, not people.

In a recent case, the court said “parenting proceedings” would not be conducted in relation to family pets.

The case related to an eight-year-old spoodle dog named Roxy. The wife had bought Roxy for her stepdaughter and was the registered owner of the dog.

Initially, the judge decided that ownership of Roxy should be transferred into the husband’s name. However, the wife said the judge had made an error in failing to consider her emotional attachment to the dog.

On appeal, the full court noted there was a mutual intention between the husband and wife that Roxy was purchased for the husband’s daughter, who was not a party to the proceedings and had no legal or equitable interest in Roxy, so it was not appropriate for the court to make an order transferring Roxy’s ownership. 

The court said: “As much as it will pain pet lovers, animals are property and are to be treated as such. Questions of attachment are not relevant, and the court is not, in effect, to undertake a parenting case in respect to them.”

If you’re concerned about where Fido or Kitty will end up living after a relationship breakdown, there are a few options:

  • Try and negotiate with your spouse first. It’s always best to attempt to negotiate, rather than fight it out in court. Some recent arrangements have involved the pets remaining with the children and travelling with them between homes. Or the parent who did not retain primary custody of the children gets to keep the pets, as a way of combating loneliness and stress.
  • You can seek consent orders or a binding financial agreement which makes provisions for who retains your pet. Courts may consider who has been responsible for expenses and whose name the pet is registered in.
  • Like any other asset, courts can deal with pets as they see fit, including ordering the pet to be sold. However, animals are not generally regarded as “significant assets” unless they have substantial monetary value, such as a racehorse or pedigree dog.

If you’ve got any concerns about where your pets will live after divorce, or any other questions relating to parenting arrangements and property settlements, contact our office today. Call GLG Legal on: (07) 3288 3511 or email at: info@springfieldlegals.com.au. to make an appointment with one of our dedicated family law experts.