Dog Custody. Who Gets The Dog After A Separation

Dog Custody. Who Gets The Dog After A Separation

Who Gets The Dog After A Separation

Find out more about exactly what happens to your pets when you end a relationship. Can you still share custody of your dogs, and what are your legal rights concerning their ownership.

Many couples opt to raise a pet before or instead of children. They become a part of the family. But what happens when the relationship breaks down? Who gets the dog? While dog owners may treat and consider their fur babies a part of the family, the law looks at it a little differently.

Let’s take a closer look.

Family Law

In divorce matters pets are considered property as there is no specific provision for pets under the Australian Family Law Act. Your pet does not have any substantial monetary value and therefore is not considered a significant asset. There are some exceptions, such as pedigree dogs or racehorses.

When it comes to the division of property in Australia, de facto couples are treated the same way as married couples. Laws regarding animals fall under the same category as the division of your household belongings and property. Family pets are generally not listed as an asset in a settlement unless there were significant costs incurred by one party and ongoing maintenance and future costs of the pet. Courts are reluctant to determine pet ownership and encourage parties to come to an independent agreement about where they will live after the separation.

When dividing your asset pool, you should seek advice from lawyers who specialise in family law.

Law reform in Australia concerning the recognition of pets as a part of the family may be possible in the future. Other countries have introduced laws that consider the well-being of pets in a divorce.

When Couples Don’t Agree

Separating couples, including people in a de facto relationship, must attend Family Dispute Resolution mediation before completing their applications for property settlement or parenting matters. An independent mediator can assist couples to come to mutually agreeable decisions without having to go to court.

If couples can not agree about who gets the dog, the court will add the pets to the property settlement and rule ownership. This option is not always suitable for both parties. For example, the court may decide for the pet to be sold. Lawyers can help guide you through this process.

Some factors infer ownership of your pets that the courts will consider adding weight to the case.

  • Who has been the most actively involved in providing care for your dogs – walking, bathing, feeding and vet visits?
  • Is the animal registered, if so, in whose name?
  • Who purchased the pets?
  • Do both parties have suitable homes for the pets to live in?

Shared Pet Custody

When couples live together, sharing a pet is easy, pets can quickly become part of the family and emotionally significant to both parties. When couples divorce, they still want to be able to spend time and look after their pets. Having pets can improve your quality of life. They help you keep active and provide great company, so deciding who gets the dog in a divorce can be painful.

Dogs are creatures of habit and enjoy routine and predictability. A shared pet arrangement may work if you can create regular schedules at both homes and with familiar toys, food, and bedding. The golden rule is always to put your dog’s needs first. Always take into consideration what is in their best interests. For example, if your dog is more attached and bonded to one of you, that should be considered because their well being is the essential factor. Some breeds are not well suited to changes to their routine, or they may have anxiety or behavioural issues that are better managed by living in one home. Every dog is different, and whilst sharing custody works for both parties, it may not always work well for your pup, depending on the circumstances.

Important Factors To Consider

  • What are your living arrangements, are both homes suitable for pets to live in?
  • Is someone home more often than the other?
  • Do your pets have an attachment to one person?
  • Are there any behavioural or anxiety disorder issues with your breed of dog?
  • Are you both financially secure and able to provide for your pets?
  • Are there children of the relationship? What is in their best interests?

Formalise An Agreement

When couples, including those in a de facto relationship, go through a separation, it is essential to divide marital finances; this includes settlement of all household effects such as white goods, cars, furniture etc. When formalising the separation of assets, it is possible to include terms regarding the care of your pets in a binding financial agreement. Coming to a mutual agreement or private contract about where your pets will live after your separation is encouraged by the court. Directly negotiating with your ex-partner will ensure that both of you are involved in the decision-making process and can decide on a suitable outcome for both parties. Formalising the verbal agreement will help make sure that the decisions are legally binding. In the same way that care arrangements are specified in a parenting plan for children, you could do the same for your pet.

Details should include:

  • Who will cover the financial costs such as registration, insurance, grooming, vet bills and training?
  • Details regarding where your pets will spend time and for how long?
  • What occurs in the event of illness or injury? Who will make important decisions concerning your dog’s health?

For expert assistance, it pays to seek legal advice from a family law expert.

Summary

When couples live together, sharing a pet is easy, dogs can quickly become part of the family and emotionally significant to both parties, as they provide tremendous emotional support. When couples separate, things can get complicated, particularly for pet owners. Deciding who gets the dog can be heartbreaking. A shared pet custody arrangement may work If you create regular schedules at both homes and with familiar toys, food and bedding.

FDR can help resolve issues without having to go to court. Formalising the agreement will help make sure that the decisions are legally binding. In the same way that care arrangements are specified in a parenting plan for children, you could do the same for your pet. When dealing with a divorce or separation, lawyers can offer expert advice.

Every dog is different, and whilst sharing custody works for both parties, it may not always work well for your pup, particularly if they have behavioural or anxiety issues.

The golden rule is always to put your dog’s needs first and think about what is in their best interests.

FAQs

1. What Determines Ownership Of A Dog?

Answer: When couples can not decide which house their dog will live in, a court can rule. They will need to determine who has ownership of the dog. They will consider who has been the most actively involved in providing care for the pet; walking, bathing, feeding and vet visits. Also, whose name is the dog registered and who purchased the pet.

2. Is It Bad To Share Custody Of A Dog?

Answer: Sharing your puppy and making a pet custody arrangement may work for some couples and dogs, but there are essential factors for you to consider. The golden rule is always to put your dog’s needs first and think about what is in their best interests. If you can create regular schedules and routines at both homes and with familiar toys, food and bedding, then sharing may be possible.

Some dog breeds are not well suited to changes to their routine, or they may have anxiety or behavioural issues that are better managed by living in one home. Every dog is different, and whilst sharing custody works for both parties, it may not always work well for your pup.

3. Who Owns A Dog In A Divorce?

Answer: Matters relating to pets fall under property as there is no specific provision for pets under the family law act. In the same way that care arrangements are specified in a parenting plan for children, you could do the same for your pet. Coming to a mutual agreement about who gets the dog after you separate is encouraged by the court. You should specify where they will live and for how long.

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