Ant McPartlin and his wife Lisa are apparently about to enter into a ‘custody dispute’ over their dog according to reports in the Sun and Daily Mail.

Any dog owner will sympathise with the dilemma. A dog very quickly becomes a much – loved member of the family and over the years I have seen numerous cases where ownership of the dog becomes an issue for divorcing or separating couples.

It seems that Ant and Lisa will come to an agreement to ‘share custody’ of the dog.

In marriages where there are several million pounds of assets to divide the parties may have the luxury of being able to instruct their lawyers to deal with arrangements for the dog. For the average family, however, the resolution of issues relating to family pets is far more clinical.

A dog is not treated by the Court in the same way as a child (even though many dog owners treat them as children). A dog (or any pet) is a possession to be divided alongside any other possessions.

Family solicitors will always encourage clients to find a way of reaching an agreement in relation to a living possession but if no agreement can be reached then it may be a question of resolving who ‘owns’ the pet.

To establish ownership the parties will need to produce evidence of who paid for the pet on the purchase, was it gifted to the other (or commonly the children)?  who has paid for the pet insurance, who has paid vets bills – are there receipts?

In the emotion of divorce and separation, it is easy to see how the family pet can become a focus for some couples.

My advice is always: if the dog is a family pet consider the children’s feelings – often the pet is the one thing a child feels he or she can rely on and so let the dog live with the children. If the party with the children can’t afford the expense of the dog then the other should contribute for the benefit of the children.

Always consider the animal’s welfare.