Many couples, upon separation, can work out every financial aspect of the split. Some couples do not fight or raise their voices when dividing ‘ours’ into ‘yours’ and ‘mine’. They can agree on who leaves with the bed or with the paintings – but some soon-to-be exes are just unable to agree as to who should look after the dog or the cat.
Those involved in a pet custody case are often the affluent, childless couples. They fight for pet ownership as seriously as for a human child.
When faced with such dilemma, who should get custody of the pets? Should you hire a family law attorney?
Where Does the Law Stand?
The Australian Family Court currently does not have jurisdiction on pets, or makes orders on who gets to live with the pet, and whether the pets can spend time with the other party. What we know for sure is that the law regards animals as ‘personal property’ in a marital split, which means they are valued and divided, so a divorce lawyer is often needed.
To win custody of your pet, you need to present explicit evidence in court. If you owned the pet prior to the relationship, or bought the pet and paid for its food and hospital bills using your personal money, present this in court as it suggests personal ownership.
Shield Yourself with a Pet-Nup
The issue would be easy to avoid if before or at the beginning of the marriage, there was a pet-nup (prenup) enforced, which specifies who gets to keep the pet upon separation.
Remember, however, that the Family Law Act allows couples to cover just one asset. If you only have a pet-nup, remember that all other assets will be divided.
Determining who gets to keep the dog or the cat is one of the hardest problems to solve at the end of a relationship. Fortunately, as long as you have someone knowledgeable in family law and a contingency plan in place, everything will be just fine.