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Pet Custody After a Relationship Breakdown

On the breakdown of marriage or a de facto relationship parenting issues are determined by reference to the best interests of the child. Issues as to which parent the child will live with and the question of time the child will spend with the other parent are determined by a child focused process designed to ensure the optimum result for the child, ensuring the protection of the child and ensuring that the child has a relationship with each parent so far as that is in the child’s best interests.

When it comes to determining with which of the separating parties the pets go, however, no such enlightened principles apply. Pets are personal property. While the courts are often reluctant to deal with issues concerning chattels, in disputed pet cases it is to the principles of property division that we look for guidance.

In one leading case the pet dog went with the spouse who could demonstrate having made greater contributions to the acquisition and maintenance of the dog and it is submitted that in a lot of cases those considerations will be the determining factors.

However, a parrot gifted to a boy with special needs was recently awarded to the boy’s mother with whom he would be living most of the time, and in another case the court made note that a dog was to go between the separated parents’ respective homes as a comfort to the young child.

Pets are important. According to twentieth century philosopher Bernard Williams “there is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face”. If pets are an issue in your separation please raise the question with your solicitor so that a remedy may be found or alternatively contact Carew Counsel on 03 9670 5711 to arrange an initial consultation with one of our family lawyers.

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