Los Angeles, CA- The Humane Society of America estimates that 62 percent of American households own at least one pet with many households counting two or three beloved cats or dogs as family members. Pets can enrich our lives but when it comes to divorce four legged-friends can become a major sticking point and estranged couples often look to the courts to help decide which spouse will get custody.
Typically when a wealthy celebrity couple like Antonio Banderas and Melanie Griffith file for divorce, one would assume that money or child custody would be a major issue. But not so with Griffith as sources say she is gearing up to fight for custody of the couple’s three dogs; a terrier mix and two shepherd-lab mixes the couple rescued last February.
When Griffith filed for divorce on June 8th she requested custody of the couple’s 17 year-old daughter Estella but seeing as she turns 18 in September so this is unlikely won’t snarl divorce negotiations. But a close friend of the couple says custody of the couple’s dogs is a different matter. The source told TMZ Griffith feels like she is a better caregiver to the canines and loves them more.
Fighting over custody of pets may seem unusual but over the past couple of decades couples increasingly ask the courts decide where a family pet is going to live once a marriage has been dissolved. According to the American Association of Matrimonial Lawyers (AAML), a recent survey of their 1,600 members showed 27 percent saw increase of couples fighting for custody of the family pet. Dogs represent 88 percent of pet custody disputes with cats coming in second, representing 5 percent of disputes.
Even though pet custody is an emotional issue, divorce courts consider a treasure pet as property. That means courts won’t award sole or joint custody of a pet to one spouse nor do the courts enforce any sort of pet custody arrangement. Courts are beginning to see the perception that pets are property is out of date and the laws in each state have yet to catch up with America’s obsession their pets. If pet custody is contentious, a judge may dedicate time to help a couple resolve the issue but there is no guarantee. Therefore, it is best for a couple allow their divorce attorneys to help them negotiate for custody of the family pet.
Griffith may be concerned about who will get custody of the couple’s three dogs but she doesn’t appear to be worried about the considerable wealth the couple has accumulated during their 18-year marriage. When speaking to TMZ, the unnamed source told TMZ Banderas is a “shrewd businessman” so dividing the couple’s assets, which include several personal residences and commercial real estate, will be prove to be a complicated task for the couple’s divorce attorneys. Combined the Banderas and Griffith are estimated to be worth $50 million. For many couples, dividing wealth assets is a primary issue especially if things get heated but Banderas and Griffith have assured their split is amicable.