One of the most upsetting parts of a separation or divorce can be deciding what happens to your beloved shared pets.
Under the Family Law Act, pets are considered (rightly or wrongly) “property” and are treated in the way you would decide upon the family car or a house.
This can be very difficult to understand and accept, given that pets are a member of the family and not seen by families as “property”.
It is important we work on an amicable agreement as the changes can cause a lot of additional stress for you, your children and your former partner, as well as your pet in some cases.
In most cases, the Court will rule that one party keep the pet. Therefore, Deanna often recommends that an agreement is made outside of the Court. Deanna can facilitate a Mediation and negotiate the living arrangements of the pet, as you and your family are the ones that will know what is best for your circumstances. In some cases, the pet can move from home to home with the children.
If you would prefer a legal measure taken for peace of mind, an Application for Consent Orders or a Binding Financial Agreement can include information about who will keep the pet. The Court will take into consideration who the pet has lived with before, during and after the separation, who the animal has an emotional bond with, and who is financially responsible for the pet’s expenses.
If neither of you can agree to the above, there are other options for taking the matter further.
How are animals dealt with in Australian law?
In Australia, the Courts have limited capacity to deal with pets.
The courts will deal with pets as personal property and in the same manner as other personal assets. This is a difficult concept for parties to understand as many parties an extremely strong emotional connection to their pets compared to other personal possessions as the pets are living, sentient beings. In most cases the courts will make an order that one party retain a pet in the same order that lists other personal property.
If pets are considered property, what is their value?
If property proceedings are already underway for other items of property, it is commonplace for the family pet to be excluded from the list of assets in the balance sheet.
If they are to be included then they would usually be given a nominal value.
If an animal is valuable, for example a prize-winning show dog or a thoroughbred racehorse they it may need to be valued and subsequently entered on the balance sheet.
Similarly, it may be appropriate to enter these on the balance sheet for income-generating animals such as livestock.
As a pet lover, the Advocate Family Lawyers’ principal lawyer, understands the stress of this situation and she has extensive experience in handling negotiations and agreements with pets following separation and divorce. If you would like a free consultation to discuss your circumstances, with the top Family Lawyers in Melbourne, please contact us to request a scheduled appointment.