Your preferred office location


This may seem like a redundant question, but for many people faced with the trauma of separation from their family, and moving out of the marital home, the question has to be asked, what becomes of the pets?

Most separating couples seem to resolve this issue amicably, as it may be understood from the start which party owns a particular pet. But for others a dispute arises as to whom certain pets will live with, and even whether the other party can visit to spend time with the pets.

Sadly, some people use their pets as pawns in their divorce battle. They will not allow the other party to spend time with their pets, or worse threaten to have the pets put down to eliminate the problem.

Accommodation becomes a determinative factor in relation to where the pets of a relationship will live. Sometimes the party that has chosen to end the relationship will move out hastily, usually into share accommodation or a rental property that doesn’t allow pets. The pets are then left behind with the other party who may not necessarily want the responsibility of caring for the pets.

Pets can often become the scapegoat particularly in situations where there has been or continues to be family violence. When the abused party finally leaves the relationship, the pets remain with the abuser simply because the abused party must leave quickly in order to be safe, and is unable to take the pets.  In this situation, women should always check that they can take their pets to the women’s refuge (if that is where they are going) as most women’s refuges can accommodate pets.

Whilst the Family Court does not have jurisdiction in relation to pets, or make orders regarding who the pets live with and whether the pets spend time with the other party, pets can be regarded as ‘property’.  According to the Family Court of Australia, animals are regarded as “personal property” in a marital split, which means they have to be valued.

Increasingly separating couples will argue through the courts for custody of their pets. This is an expensive exercise and as a result pet owners are considering signing financial agreements to avoid battles over their four-legged friends.

*The information provided in this website serves as a general guide and does not constitute legal advice. It is based on our research and experience at the time of publication. Please consult our knowledgeable legal team for any specific inquiries or advice relevant to your circumstances, as the content may not have been updated subsequently.  

Consult our legal team