Forget fighting like cats and dogs. These days, divorcing spouses are fighting over their cats and dogs.
On Tuesday, News 4 Tucson investigated the rising number of pet custody battles, which attorneys surveyed by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in 2006 say have increased substantially in the past decade.
Pets are considered property in every state in the country, according to the local news report, so judges often have their hands tied when couples come to them looking to reach custody agreements for their pooch.
"The court really doesn't have any authority to give somebody rights of access or time with a pet," Tucson attorney Elisabeth Benavidez said.
Instead, Benavidez said many couples are resolving their pet custody issues outside of court, hammering out civil agreements separate from the main divorce settlement to determine who gets the pets. In a recent case, Benavidez helped one divorced man secure visitation with his Chihuahuas every other day for at least an hour.
Conflict among divorcing pet owners has become so common that many lawyers are suggesting couples with pets sign "pre-pup agreements" in addition to a pre-nuptial agreement, the Daily Mail reported in March 2010.
Celebrities have become embroiled in pet custody battles, too. Click through the photos to see who walked away with their four-legged friend.
Britney Spears and Kevin Federline fought for custody of their dogs after Spears lost custody of their two children, Sean Preston and Jayden James, in September 2007. Animal rights activists urged Spears to relinquish custody of her dogs, and PETA even wrote an open letter to Federline encouraging him to file for custody of their pets. "For the sake of your children and the animals who are at risk while in Ms. Spears' custody, we hope that you will do the right and best thing for all involved and pursue a custody order for the animals so that your sons can continue to have the company of the animals they've grown to adore," wrote PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk. According to The Telegraph, Spears was voted the worst celebrity dog owner in a poll conducted by The New York Dog and The Hollywood Dog magazines.
Socialite and reality TV star Tinsley Mortimer shares joint custody of her two Chihuahuas, Bella and BeBe, with her ex-husband Topper. "We do month to month," she told People magazine in March 2010. "If I get a chance to have nothing to do, I'll ... just hang around at home with my dogs."
Despite Jennifer Love Hewitt and ex fiancée Ross McCall's "amicable" split in January 2009, the pair became embroiled in a bitter custody battle over her dog, Mona. A source told the New York Daily News that Hewitt resorted to dirty tricks to win the dog's loyaly, including "attempting to change Mona's name so that when Ross calls, the dog won't come," the source said.
Drew Barrymore and Tom Green divorced in 2001 after less than six months of marriage. The couple reportedly fought for custody of Barrymore's yellow Labrador Flossie in the divorce proceedings, which Barrymore ultimately won. The dog saved hers and Green's lives in May 1998 when their Beverly Hills home caught on fire. "Flossie barked and literally banged on (Drew and Tom's) bedroom door. She was really the main alert," Barrymore's publicist told People magazine. Flossie passed away in July 2010, and Barrymore spread her ashes across the Ganges river in India.
In addition for fighting for custody of their eight children, exes Jon and Kate Gosselin reportedly argued about the fate of their two German shepherds, Shoka and Nala, which they purchased in a February 2009 episode of Jon and Kate Plus 8. In September 2009, Jon returned the dogs to their breeder, telling E! News that Kate refused to care for them in his absence. "It's not fair to the dogs to not be wanted in their own home," Jon said. Kate decided to bring back one of the dogs in November 2010, much to the delight of their kids.
One day after Tiger Wood's fateful November 2009 car accident that triggered revelations about his infidelity, his ex-wife Elin Nordegren left their family home with at least three of their dogs. During their divorce proceedings, both Woods and Nordegren reportedly wanted custody of the family dogs. Nordegren is said to have received $110 million and joint custody of their two children in the settlement, though it's unclear who was awarded custody of their furry friends. Tiger was photographed with two of their dogs, Taz and Yogi, while Elin was away with the kids in Sweden in April 2010.