July 4, 2023

We all know someone who dotes on their pets… but if there is a dispute about who gets to keep the pets when a relationship breaks down, how does the Court decide? In 2016, an entire rom com was devoted to the scenario – but we don’t recommend going to Hollywood for your legal advice!

Here’s our low down on how the court decides who gets to keep the pets in the event of a separation.

In Australia, animals, including domestic pets, are treated as property for the purposes of family law. As such, the ‘best interests’ principle that governs the arrangements for the care of the parties’ children is not applicable. Rather, matters such as who purchased the pet, the name of the registered owner, who paid for costs associated with the pet, and who contributed to the pet’s care (such as walking the dog, feeding the animal and taking it to the vet) are relevant to which party will keep the pet.

If there are children of the relationship who would be affected by the decision, the Court may also take into account the child’s attachment to a pet, and can make an order that the animal is to travel between houses with the child, or that the animal lives with the party that has the primary care of the child.

In short, who gets the pets in a separation greatly depends on the circumstances during the relationship.

If you require easy to understand, expert legal advice on any family issues, call us on (02) 9976 5222 or email

This information and information published on our website and social media sites is general in nature and for information and entertainment purposes only.  This information does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such.  If you require legal advice which takes into account your personal circumstances, please contact us for an appointment.