How to Get Custody of Your Pet in a Divorce

Resolve Conflict - How to Get Custody of Your Pet in a Divorce

Although many pet owners view pets as members of their family, Australian Courts view pets as property. During divorce proceedings, the fate of a pet is determined in accordance with marital property laws. If keeping custody of your pet after a divorce is important to you, you may not want to leave the decision up to a judge.

1. Keep the best interest of the pet in mind. Although the courts may view your pet as property, you know that your pet has feelings and needs. These should be kept in mind when determining custody. Consider the following:

  • If there are children in the family, it is usually best if the parent who has custody of the children also retains custody of the pet. Divorce is hard enough on the children without them losing their pet as well.
  • Pets require care, attention and love. The spouse with the most flexible schedule, who has the most time to spend with the pet, is usually the best person to take custody.
  • Before deciding you want to keep custody of the pet be sure that you will have the financial means to continue to pay for the pet’s care after the divorce.


2. Talk with your spouse regarding pet custody to see if you can come to a mutually satisfying agreement.

  • The only way to determine the fate of your pet yourself is to keep it out of the divorce proceedings by agreeing on custody in advance.
  • Although most courts will not address options for sharing the pet, amicable spouses could agree, before getting to court, to share custody of the pet or allow visitation rights for the non-custodial “pet parent.”
  • Have your divorce attorneys draw up paperwork outlining your separation agreement, including ownership and visitation of the pet. Although this may not hold up in a court of law, sometimes having it in writing and signed by both parties makes everyone more likely to stick to the agreement.


3. Be prepared to compromise if your spouse does not agree to give you custody. Give up property that your spouse wants in exchange for keeping the pet.

4. Tell your attorney how important custody of your pet is to you. If you do not make this clear to your attorney, she may not realize the pet is a priority when negotiating divorce terms. Some attorneys are not sympathetic to the needs of pets.

5. Take your claim to court you can’t work it out with your spouse. Turning the fate of custody over to the courts is risky because there are no laws in place to address this issue, so there is no way to predict the outcome. When preparing your case for pet custody consider the following:

  • When the pet joint your family. If you had the pet before you got married you can argue that he is personal, not joint property.
  • Who has been taking primary care of the pet. Consider getting a statement from your vet or ask him to testify in court that you are the spouse who had been bringing the pet for medical care.
  • Who has more time to spend with the pet. Convince the court that you have more time to play with, exercise and care for your pet.
  • Who has more space for the pet. Let the courts know if your pet requires space for play and exercise and your spouse is moving into a small apartment or other dwelling that would not be suitable for the pet.

If you have any queries on Family Law or Mediation please don’t hesitate to contact us on 03 9620 0088 or email

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