Who owns the pet when you separate?
Ending a long-term relationship or marriage can be quite difficult, but there can be additional heartache if a beloved pet is involved.
Are animal custody battles âone thingâ? Yes, most definitely. Just last month, a landmark case of a Spanish couple who separated after 20 months saw the judge grant joint custody of their black-and-white border collie Panda, who will now spend a month at a time with each partner, and the couple will share the vet bills.
The case is significant because it makes legal progress towards the recognition of pets as “sentient beings” rather than property.
In the judge’s decision, it was noted that “formal property cannot prevail …[over] the applicant’s affection â.
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Things are different in Australia.
Currently, there is no legislation guiding the courts on the living conditions of pets after separation. “Animals are treated like property in the colonies here,” family lawyer Kasey Fox told Body + Soul. âIf this case were to happen in Australia, the court would likely decide who is keeping the dog. “
She cites the Downey v Beale case in 2017, in which the couple couldn’t agree on who got the dog; after examining who bought the animal and paying its running costs, the wife was successful.
But how do we determine the best interests of the animal?
Some judges have unusual methods. In a case of custody of a stolen dog, TV judge Judy had the animal brought to justice, then granted ownership to the person it was running from: the original owner.
But when it comes to a breakup, the experience is often as unsettling for the dog as it is for humans, says dog trainer Justin Jordan.
âCouples who separate need to put their emotions aside and put the dog’s interests first,â he told Body + Soul.
As he points out, there is “no dog on the planet” who does not experience separation anxiety, and dogs never bond to both mates equally, so it is generally better than one. dog stays with a partner.
There are exceptions, depending on breed and temperament, he adds, but generally shared custody is more suitable for owners than for dogs.
âSome dogs won’t care as long as they get love and attention. But it is more the exception that the dog does not hesitate to move between the houses.
Although his title is âDog Trainer,â Jordan says the most important part of his job is training humans.
âSometimes we sit with the [estranged] couple and explains that it is better for the dog to stay with one person, âhe explains. “Especially when we suspect that an aggrieved partner is pressuring for custody to get revenge on their ex.”
And the fight for the felines?
Cats, Jordan admits, are easier: “They are so independent that as long as you feed and water them, they are generally happy.”
In the case of Damian and Harry *, who went their separate ways after nearly two decades, they had to figure out who would end up with their two cats. Ultimately, Harry moved interstate and announced that pets would not be joining him.
âIt was frustrating,â Damian told Body + Soul. âHe told me that because I had broken our happy home, I was solely responsible for the ‘children’ we chose to have. So there I was, grappling with two cats – with bills for their food, litter, and vet appointments. And he was able to continue his life as if they had never been there.
In the end, they came to a resolution and Harry agreed to continue paying the monthly pet insurance bill. âOnce the dust settled, it made sense,â adds Damian.
“[The cats] have always been more connected with me; and he said he understood that I was overwhelmed by the ongoing cost of their upkeep. “
Are there ways to ensure your preference in a custody battle?
Yes, according to Courtney Mullen, head of family law at the Australian Family Lawyers ACT.
She says there are steps you can take if you want to be considered the legal owner, but adds that it’s wise to be totally transparent about this with your partner: âMake sure you buy it. or buy it in part, register the animal in your name and have the insurance policy in your name.
* Names have been changed.
What happens when both parties want to be off a leash?
Two kids, a mortgage, a full-time job and now … a rambunctious pet that’s been left behind like the rest of the family – what happens when someone doesn’t want it. family animal as a result of a bad separation?
The financial burden of keeping an animal well fed and healthy should not be underestimated, especially for those who find themselves in difficult or extenuating circumstances who cannot simply solve the problem by throwing money at one. dog walker twice a day.
So what legal recourse does a person have in this situation?
“The ‘spousal support’ and ‘child support’ legal remedies do not apply to pets,” said Courtney Mullins, head of family law at Australian Family Lawyers.
âIt means you can’t force your ex-partner to pay for the pet’s expenses. “
On the other hand, âThe court cannot force a partner to keep a pet. If neither party wants – or can afford to keep – the animal, then the animal will have to be sold or relocated.
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