Illinois movie fans who enjoy the performances of Melanie Griffith and Antonio Banderas may be seeing some new action. However, this will not take the form of a new film. Instead, the divorcing stars are embroiled in a property division battle over the ownership of their pets.
It has been reported that Griffith wants custody of the three dogs that the couple owns. Many divorce lawyers have noted that there has been an increase in the number of cases involving fights over pets. Additionally, the amount of money that Americans spend on their animals is at its highest point. Perhaps for this reason, people are wishing to keep the asset on which they have made such an investment. Under the law, pets are considered another item for couples to potentially divide. While they may feel like members of the family, custody rules do not typically apply to these cases.
Some judges are willing to hear evidence beyond what is usually heard about an inanimate asset, such as information concerning the daily care of the pet. However, the majority approach is to treat the dog like a piece of furniture or other item of personal property. The party who wants to keep the pet may be required to pay off the other party for his or her property interest. In some cases, individuals have been able to retain custody of their pets when there have been threats of violence and the pet owner has asked for a restraining order from the threatening party.
One way that individuals avoid the potential problems related to pet disputes is to address them in a prenuptial agreement. If they have already gotten married, they may choose to create a postnuptial agreement that addresses pet ownership. A family law attorney may be able to draft a legally binding agreement regarding which party should keep the pet.
Source: The Daily Beast, "Divorce Is Going to the Dogs, Literally", Keli Goff, June 20, 2014