Who Gets The Pet in a Divorce?
A family pet is often considered as part of the family, but the law in Australia provides that pets are considered chattels (property). In a divorce, their ownership is determined by the court in a property settlement. Whilst such cases are rare, a recent case has considered such an issue.
- The couple were able to reach consent in relation to their property division, which ultimately provided for the husband to retain the house and make a cash payment to the wife. The parties entered into a consent order providing for each of them to otherwise retain all assets in their respective names.
- The only issue that remained before the court for determination, was who would retain the family dog. The husband sought an order for the family dog to be transferred to him. The wife sought to rely on the consent order, being that they each retain the assets in their respective possessions, and for her that would include the dog.
- The couple agreed that the husband had paid the $300 for the purchase of the dog which was purchased when the parties commenced dating. The wife’s case was that the dog resided with her at her parents’ property after its purchase and that she was financially responsible for the dog since its adoption. She produced a number of bank statements to verify her payment of the dog’s expenses.
- The husband’s case was that the dog lived with him after its adoption and only commenced living at the wife’s parents’ property when the parties commenced their cohabitation. He also argued that the court should make an order that the dog be returned to him as it was registered in his name. Registration was done by the husband 8 months after separation.
The Court Found
- The court found that the registration of the dog was self-serving and had been done by the husband only after the wife asserted ownership of the dog. Whilst the dog was registered in the husband’s name, as the wife’s evidence as to her care of the dog since its adoption was preferred by the court she was found to be owner of the dog.
- That the wife be declared the owner of the dog and the husband do all such things necessary to transfer the dog to the wife.
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