Who gets the pet if we separate? - The Community Leader and Real Estate New and Views


Many people classify their beloved pet as part of their family – and rightly so! However, when it comes to family law in Queensland, all pets are classified as property. This means that the Court will approach the issue in the same way as it would when deciding the distribution of all other property of the relationship.

Legal ownership does not determine who will retain ownership of the pet in separation matters. The court will consider:

  1. The pet’s Council registration and microchip;
  2. Who paid for the pet;
  3. Was one party the main caregiver of the pet;
  4. Who has the accommodation best suited for the pet; and
  5. All other matters in relation to its care.

In a 2018 case of Gaynor & Tseh, the applicant sought an interim order that the parties pet dog be returned to him. Justice Cronin held that the dog could only be categorised as a chattel and that there was no logical reason why it was urgent for the Court to intervene to ‘protect property’. Consequently, no interim orders were made regarding the pet.

In 2020, the case of Davenport v Davenport considered whether separating couples can have custody of their pets. Judge Tonkin found that there were no powers under the Family Law Act to allow a Court to make a shared custody order for a pet.

If you have been unable to reach an agreement following separation through negotiation and mediation regarding your pet, you are able to make an application for property orders which include your pet.

For further information, contact Australian Family Lawyers today on 07 3313 0219 (Bayside office).

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