With the number of ‘fur-babies’ on the rise, the question of what happens to Fido in the case of a relationship breakdown is a common one.
Many ‘fur-parents’ are devastated to learn that their beloved Fido will not be treated as a child under the Family Law Act and have the usual parenting considerations around time with each parent apply to them; but rather that the law treats them as nothing more than a chattel!
When the fur-parent then turns to the Family Law Act and discovers that the Court has an obligation “as far as practicable” to make orders that will “finally determine the financial relationship between parties” it is quickly apparent that this is inconsistent with any ongoing order for shared care of Fido.
As a result, couples are starting to document their agreement for Fido’s care arrangements in the event of any separation, while the family remains intact. As Fido is legally deemed ‘property’ for the purpose of the Family Law Act, couples can enter into a pre-nuptial agreement – known in Australia as a Financial Agreement – at any time before or during their relationship to agree as to who Fido will live with in the event of separation. Currently, the law of Financial Agreements in Australia is such that these documents are quite technical, and require careful consideration and drafting if they are to be upheld if challenged; so while achievable, it can prove to be an expensive task.
Perhaps in the future the law will catch up and fur-babies will find their place in the Family Law Act, but until then we will continue to think outside the square, for the sake of Fido.