Cat and dog cuddling

Who gets the pets?

The question as to where the beloved family pet will live during a family law proceedings is one we often come across.

Despite how much we love our pets, they are not considered in the same way that custody of children are. As such, dogs get distributed as other property would, and are not necessarily subject to visitation rights or support obligations as you would find with actual children.

Therefore, who gets the animal is decide in the division of assets. In simple case most people would assume that whoever paid for the pet would be the one to gain possession so to speak.

However, it must be considered whether the animal was a gift from one of the parties to the other. Which if that was the case, the recipient would be granted “custody” of the pet.

In the event that possession of the family pet cannot be agreed upon by the parties, then court proceedings may be the likely path.

  • The court would consider the following, when deciding where and with whom the animal should reside:
    Who originally bought the pet – when it comes to pets, this is not definitive. For example, one of the parties may claim that the pet was a gift, which could impact the decision.
  • Whose name the pet is registered in with the local council – providing registration was
  •  Who has the best place for the pet to stay, for example, a suitable back garden.
  • Who needs the companionship of a pet for emotional reasons.
  • If children are involved, the Court will often place the pet at the children’s primary place
    of residence.
  •  Whether the pet is a service animal – for example, a seeing-eye-dog, medical need for
    the animal will always get custody of the pet.
  • The safety of the animal – for example if domestic violence contributed the separation
    where the animal was threatened in any way.

Many couples going through a separation find it less stressful make a custody agreement regarding their loveable pooch outside of Court. If neither party wants to give up their pet, a schedule or “parenting plan” somewhat similar to that referred to for child custody could be made-up that allows for equal time.


At Rachel Storey and Associates, we understand that separating can be a difficult and emotional time and it is important to have someone you can rely on helping you navigate your way through. Whether it be Divorce, property settlements, child custody, or even the ownership of your beloved pet we are here to help.

Please do not hesitate to call us on 9069 1033, or make an enquiry with one of our experienced team.


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