Can I have shared custody of my dog after separating from my partner?
Under the Family Law Act, a court can make or approve Orders for children to live with one parent and spend time with the other, or for a child to spend equal time between two parents. But what about your furry family members?
In a 2007 case Jarvis & Weston , at a final hearing, some 6 years into the court proceedings for the child, at the 11th hour an issue arose about the family dog. The child had mentioned his concerns about the dog to the family report writer, and there was a paragraph in the report that the court was able to look to for evidence in assisting to determine the issue, so that the parties could once and for all finalise parenting matters between them.
Though it was submitted to the court that it had no jurisdiction to make any order about the dog, the Judge ruled on the issue saying whether it falls ‘under the accrued, associated, inherent, or parens patriae jurisdiction of the Court it can be found should the need arise. The boy is attached to the dog. The dog is to go with the boy.’
So, in that case, a child’s relationship with a pet enabled the court to include the dog in the orders about the child.
Pets and the Family Law Act
Pets do not fit within the definition of ‘child’ in the Family Law Act (FLA) and as such, cannot alone be the subject of parenting Orders made by a court. After a separation, you cannot make an application under the FLA to spend time with a pet.
The above case study could be described as an exception, not a rule. Generally, the only Orders the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia can make about a pet, are as part of a property settlement, and who shall retain possession of that item of property.
My pet is Property???
That’s right, a family pet or the beloved dog you and your former partner adopted together 4 years ago is property. A further case study is below, but first, there is a way you can “share custody” of your pet. The catch 22 is that you and your ex need to agree how to do so.
*Disclaimer: This is intended as general information only and not to be construed as legal advice. The above information is subject to changes over time. You should always seek professional advice beforetaking any course of action.*
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