Pets are furry family members to many couples — and can spark nasty custody battles when those couples divorce. But courts often will not rule on pet ownership. “You don’t want to be the lawyer going in front of a judge asking to divide a pet,” says Freid and Goldsman divorce lawyer Jon S. Summers. When Fido’s fate does come before a court, the verdict could be heartbreaking. California law considers pets property, like a TV, so the judge almost always grants ownership to one ex, leaving the other petless. And anything from pet-food receipts to testimony from neighbors and therapists might be used in court to determine the pet’s rightful caretaker. But most couples, says Summers, reach pet custody agreements outside the courtroom. Here’s who won in five famous battles:
HUGH HEFNER VS. CHRISSY HARRIS
After breaking off their engagement in June 2011, the couple battled over who would win ownership of Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Charlie. Harris originally allowed Hefner to keep Charlie but changed her mind that December.
Winner: Hefner retained custody as evidenced by both dog and Hef being featured on Nat Geo Wild’s Dog Whisperer in July 2012.