American pet owners shelled out over $61 billion buying items for their animals in 2011. With roughly three-quarters of American households boasting at least one pet, it may be no surprise that a couple going through a divorce is willing to fight for custody of their beloved animal. In some Oregon divorces, disagreements over custody of a pet may even rise above issues concerning child custody.
Take the recent divorce filing between actors Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith. Their youngest will turn 18 years old later this year, but it’s apparently the pets that are posing a problem. The couple shares three dogs that will likely require custody issues to be sorted out.
Pet custody in general has apparently grown significantly since 2001, which may be due in part to the fact that pets are largely considered to be like family to their owners. Despite Fido’s position as family member, custody of a pet is not determined in the same way as a child. In the law’s eyes, pets are just another piece of property to divide. When determining who the animal should go to, more weight is generally given to the well-being of the owners and not the pet.
When children are also involved, pets will usually be awarded to the parent with primary custody. However, Oregon couples trekking the path of divorce that also consider the pets to be their children might have a more difficult time when it comes to determining custody. Some couples may be able to work out a contract as part of the divorce settlement that determines the custody and ownership of a pet. Although animals are still considered personal property, for those unable to agree, it is possible to go to court to tackle the issue of ownership of a beloved pet.
Source: commdiginews.com, “Melanie Griffith: pet custody issues more common in divorce”, Myra Fleischer, June 30, 2014