Planning Ahead for Your Pet

For many of us, our pets are important members of the family. Have you considered how they are dealt with by the law after your death or in the event of a relationship breakdown?

Estate Planning and Pets

It is possible to include a clause in your Will directing how you would like your pet to be cared for after your death and who you would like the animal to live with.  You can even bequeath money from your estate to the new carer of your animal or set up a trust to fund your furry loved one’s care and maintenance.

Relationship Breakdown and Pets

There is no reference to pets in the Family Law Act 1975 (Cth), but the Family Court has held that pets are to be treated as property to be included in the property pool available for division between parties.

This means that the Court has the power to make orders dealing with pets, but that does not mean that even the most patient of Judges will be willing to dedicate much Court time to such an issue.

In determining which party gets to keep a pet, the Family Court has previously considered the following factors:

  • Whose name the pet is registered in;
  • Who takes on most of the responsibilities involved in caring for the pet;
  • Who has the most appropriate accommodation for the pet;
  • In a matter involving custody of a child, whether it would be in the best interests of the child to award possession of the pet to the party that cares for the child for the majority of time.

As is the case with most family law matters, the most cost and time effective way to make decisions about the future of a family pet following the breakdown of a relationship is through negotiation. If parties to a dispute can agree to a suitable arrangement for the pet, then this can be included in Consent Orders which are filed with and formalised by the Court.

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