Pets in Family Law Proceedings

Every family member, including our cherished pets, deserves care and consideration during challenging times like separation. Navigate the legal maze with understanding and expert advice.

Separation brings along its challenges, affecting not only the splitting couples but also their family, including fur family members. For many Australian households, pets like dogs or cats aren’t just animals—they’re loved family members. But what happens to them during a separation?

Understanding the Legal Classification

Even though many treat pets with the same love and care as they would a child, within the realms of family law, pets are regarded as ‘chattels’ in the context of property settlements. This might sound somewhat impersonal given our emotional bond with pets, but it’s how the legal system classifies them due to the absence of specific pet-related legislation during separations.

Negotiating for the Furry Family Member

It’s common for separating couples to decide on their own about the living arrangements for the family pet, keeping the matter outside of formal legal proceedings. However, if your pet is registered, it’s vital to update its address if it’s changing homes.

It’s also essential to consider:

  • The pet’s best living condition: Who remains in the family home might be best placed to care for the pet, especially during the property settlement process.
  • The pet’s relationship with family members: The bond between pets and children is profound. Considering the emotional well-being of kids during separation is crucial. Additional stress can arise if they’re separated from their cherished pet.

Seeking Legal Guidance

If an amicable agreement seems elusive, consider seeking a family law consultation free of charge. Expert advice can enlighten you on property settlement processes, especially concerning pets. If direct negotiations don’t bear fruit, mediation can be the next step. Here, care arrangements, from permanent living situations to periodic visits (like weekly beach walks), can be discussed and agreed upon.

Remember, any informal agreement reached isn’t legally binding until formalised, either as a Court Order or a Financial Agreement.

Facing a separation and unsure about your pet’s future? Schedule your free 45-minute appointment with our expert family law solicitors today.



  1. How does Australian family law classify pets in the context of separation?

   – In family law, pets are considered ‘chattels’ and are thus part of the property settlement context.

  1. What if my former spouse and I cannot agree on pet care post-separation?

   – Mediation can be a constructive avenue. If still unresolved, legal proceedings in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia might become necessary.

  1. Is an informal agreement about our pet’s care legally binding?

   – No, any agreement needs to be formalised as a Court Order or Financial Agreement to be legally binding.

Disclaimer: This article offers general information and should not be construed as legal advice. Always consult with a professional for tailored advice regarding your specific circumstances.
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