Who keeps the dog?
It is fair to say that the majority of us here at Butlers are dog lovers, and, most of us treat our pooch like they are one of the family. So we entirely understand it when someone asks us during a separation, “but what about the dog?”.
There is no specific provision in the Family Law Act 1975 that deals with pets. Practically, you can try and reach an agreement between you as to who keeps the dog (or any family pet, including the goldfish!), or perhaps you can agree that you each spend time with the dog, each week. However, if you aren’t able to reach an agreement, the Court will deal with the dog in the same way as personal property.
This means the Court would consider things such as:-
- Whose name is the dog (or pet) registered in?
- Who has the pet resided with prior to, during and following separation?
- Who paid for the dog and who has been responsible for the financial expenses associated with owning the dog?; and
- Who will have suitable accommodation and is able to continue to maintain the dog.
The Court can (and will if needed) place a dollar value on your dog.
The intention of Section 81 of the Family Law Act 1975 is to, as far as practicable, make such Orders as will finally determine the relationship between the parties to the marriage and avoid further proceedings between them. Therefore, as the family dog is considered “property”, the Court may be unwilling to make Orders that mean the parties will have an ongoing relationship with each other by continuing to share property.
If the thought of arguing over your dog terrifies you, you could consider preparing a Binding Financial Agreement, which can set out exactly what would happen to your furry friend, if you separate.
If you would like any further information, please contact us and we can arrange an appointment for you to meet with one of our experienced lawyers.