Cygnet Law in Redcar is offering advice to separating couples over pet custody, following the recent high profile divorce proceedings of Ant McPartlin and Lisa Armstrong.

Many Teessiders who are ending their marriages are concerned about who will keep the beloved pet following the break up. This can be a particular issue with couples who do not have children.

Ant McPartlin’s divorce, and the suspected custody battle he may face over his Labrador, has highlighted the concerns of many couples regarding pet custody in the event of a divorce.

Pet custody cases are nothing new in the celebrity world, with film stars Jonny Depp and Amber Herd fighting over their two Yorkshire terriers, Pistol and Boo, following their split in 2016, and singer Cheryl winning custody of Chihuahuas, Buster and Coco after her divorce from Ashley Cole in 2010.

In January this year, Alaska became the first state in the USA to essentially treat pets the same way they do children, and give judges the power to give couples joint custody of pets, if it will be in the animal’s best interest.

John Robinson, a divorce specialist Solicitor and Director at Cygnet Law, said: “As far as the law in the UK is concerned, animals are treated in much the same way as inanimate objects, such as computers, cars, or jewellery. However, owners feel more of a personal attachment with a pet than they would with other belongings, and this can make the custody decision more difficult.

“Courts will usually be reluctant to grant custody of a pet, however in the cases where they do, they will usually look at who bought it, who has the funds to pay for its upkeep, and who has primarily cared for it in the home. There is no hard and fast rule for how the decisions of the court will be made, and it will be treated in the same way as any other household object, rather than the same way a child custody hearing would work.”

John added: “We have helped some couples to draw up a pet pre-nuptial agreement, to give them some reassurance over what will happen if they get divorced down the line. Whatever happens, we aim to help people to resolve the issue as amicably as possible at what is an understandably difficult time.”