We recently posted a blog titled ‘Who Gets the Dog?’. We have received many questions about pets and how they can be dealt with. As such, we have created this blog to consider what options you have to determine your pet’s future post separation.
Binding Financial Agreement
Binding Financial Agreements (“BFA”) can be entered into at any stage in a relationship – before cohabitation, during cohabitation, or post separation. A entered into prior to or during cohabitation will have the effect of pre-determining what will happen to each person’s property in the event that you separate in the future. This gives you certainty about what will happen to your assets, and you can include your pet in such agreement.
Negotiation between the Parties directly or between their respective legal representatives is usually the first step to settle a property matter. This could save a lengthy legal battle and costs. Further, you have raised your pet, you know what is in its best interests. One option may be that the pet moves between each parent’s house with the children.
In the event that negotiation does not work, the next step is generally to attend a mediation session with an independent third party who will assist with settlement discussions.
Make an Application to the Court including Orders for your Pet
In the event that your matter proceeds to Court, the Court will consider a range of factors including:
- who purchased the pet and what the purpose of such purchase was;
- who is the legal owner of the pet, that is, whose name is the pet registered to;
- who cared for the pet;
- who spent more time with the pet; and
- who took on more of the responsibilities such as feeding, walking and training the pet.
These considerations, however, are based on who should receive ownership of the ‘property’ rather than what is in the best interests of the pet.
It is important to keep in mind that the Court has wide discretion in the Orders that it makes. The Court could Order that one party keeps the pet, that the pet moves with the Children, or that the pet be sold and the proceeds divided.
Further, the Court cannot make an Order for shared time with a pet. In Davenport & Davenport (No 2)  FCCA 2766, the Court decided it could not make a shared custody order which was sought by the Husband, as the FLA provides no statutory basis for the “shared custody” of property following separation (at ).
How can Southern Waters Legal Help?
Southern Waters Legal can help in the event you require assistance with your pet custody matter or your family law matter generally. Our team of solicitors can assist in negotiation, mediation, and proceeding to Court if required. We understand that pets are more than simply “property”, they are your family.