Splitting up (part two)?  What about Fido?

We have written previously about how a property settlement can be a quick and cost-effective method to finalise financial matters with your ex-partnerParting couples may have arranged the division of the finances and decided who keeps the TV and who takes the porcelain vase, but may be left with one last question – what about the pets? And – “who gets the dog”?


An informal arrangement between couples is the most common way for parting couples to resolve what will happen with the pets.  Peter Magee, a family lawyer at Armstrong Legal, states that couples need to consider where your pet should reside and come to an informal agreement with your ex-partner regarding this.”  

What about me?
What about me?


Mr Magee outlines three factors that may be considered when agreeing where Fido is to live.  These include:

  • Who (if anyone) will remain in the formal matrimonial home.  “It may make sense”, states Mr Magee for the pet to remain with the former matrimonial home”.
  • If there are children from the relationship, where will they reside?  Mr Magee notes that the pets can “assist with providing the children with some sense of stability,” so it may make sense for the pets to follow the children.  
  • Mr Magee notes that while most pets are a financial burden, if the pet is a show dog or cat of value, then this should be taken into account on the “balance sheet” of the property.   

Technically a pet is “property” under Australian law, and the court therefore has the theoretical power to make orders for ownership of the pet. 


The Animal Law Committee of the Law Society of New South Wales in their Animal Law Guide, however, notes that while the courts may have this power in theory, in reality it has not been widely used by the courts.  


In the end, as with most family law matters, an amicable arrangement for where the pet will live is a better outcome than a battle in court on “who gets the dog?“.


This article has been derived from useful material published on the Armstrong Legal and Law Society of New South Wales websites. The information therein is not intended to be legal advice and is cited for informational purposes only. Seek your own legal advice.