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Pets and Family Law

A recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald, “What about me?” has raised the questions of what happens to the family pet when couples separate? This is often a tricky question and can cause as much stress to separating couples as deciding on the future parenting arrangements for children.

It is becoming increasingly common for arguments to occur over who gets t keep the family cat or dog.  It is reported that in a study of 1000 people completed by a national law firm Slater & Gordon Lawyers, one in 12 lost their pets at separation or divorce. An industry organisation, Pets Australia, along with a mediator at InterMediate, report that many people voice their concerns and emotions over the family pet when separation orccurs.

The study found that most people who have concerns over the family pets are childless, wealthy couples who see the pets as their “children”.  Most also believe that the Family Court would make Orders as to future arrangements just as they would do for children.

This is not the case, however, Australian Family Law Courts do not make Orders in relation to the family pets.  This is left to separating couples to decide between themselves and as a reult, unfortunately the beloved pet can and is often used as a bargaining or negotiating tool when coming to an agreement over the division of the rest of the family assets.

It is reported that in America the situation is some what different.  The Courts are beginning to accept that the issue of who gets to keep the pet is one of concern to separating couples and have made “pet parenting” Orders detailing the future arrangement for sharing the family pet.

As the Australian Family Courts do not entertain applications in relation to pets the article recommends that couples enter into informal “pet pre-nups” or “pet parenting” agreements to avoid arguments over the family pets if separation occurs.  It is advised that these arrangements should include not only what time the pet is to spend time with each party but also details on matters such as food, veterinary bills, grooming and end of life decisions.

Although details over the much beloved family pets are not entertained by the Family Courts it is important to consider the emotional impact that occurs when parties have to separatenot only from their partner, but also the pet who has often become their “best friend”.

Should you have any enquiries call Kim Lawson at Brazel Moore Lawyers on (02) 4324 7699.

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