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Pet Ownership after Separation

Written by Pearsons Lawyers

The breakdown of a marriage or de facto relationship is a challenging time, filled with difficult decisions and emotional turmoil. Among the many issues that need to be addressed during a separation is pet ownership. Pets are often regarded as cherished family members and deciding who gets to keep them can a source of conflict.

The Legal Perspective

Unlike parenting issues, which are determined by the best interests of the child, pets are considered personal property like other assets such as vehicles or real estate. While this may seem controversial or upsetting, there are several ways that pet ownership and care can be determined.

Determining Factors

The Courts prefer that parties decide on issues of pet ownership and care themselves, such as through negotiation, mediation, or “Pet Parenting Arrangements”, which have become increasingly popular. Although pet parenting arrangements are informal, they can be useful where a co-parenting arrangement is practical.

If the ownership of a pet is disputed in Court, then the Court will often look at the following principles:

  1. Who chose the pet;
  2. Who the pet is registered to;
  3. Who provides the primary care for the pet, including feeding, exercising, grooming and veterinary care;
  4. Who can provide a more stable and suitable environment for the pet;
  5. Whether a co-parenting arrangement is practical;
  6. Any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that addresses pet ownership; and
  7. If children are involved, whether the pet should continue to live with the children to reduce emotional stress and anxiety.


The issue of pet ownership after the breakdown of a relationship can be emotionally challenging and complex. It is vital that divorcing couples approach pet ownership with sensitivity and on what is best for the pet. Whether an arrangement is reached through negotiation, mediation or court intervention, the primary focus should always be to provide a safe and stable environment for the pet.

To arrange your free initial consultation with a specialist Family Lawyer at Pearsons Lawyers contact us today or call 1300 699 688 and know where you stand.

Pearsons Family Lawyers

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