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Who Gets to Keep the Family Pet in an Illinois Divorce?

Posted on in Divorce

Wheaton property divison attorney for pet custodyWhether you have a dog, cat, horse, bird, or other type of animal, you probably love and cherish your pet as if he or she was part of the family. One concern many divorcing spouses have is who will keep the family pet after their marriage ends. Arguments about “pet custody” can often become heated. One spouse may even try to maintain ownership of the pet simply to spite the other spouse. If you are planning to end your marriage, make sure to educate yourself about how Illinois’ property division laws address pet ownership after divorce.

Pet Custody Laws in Illinois

Although you most likely do not think of your pet as simply another piece of property, pets are treated similarly to other assets during divorce. There are not proceedings for “pet custody” the way there are for child custody. The pet is considered a marital asset if it was acquired by either spouse during the course of the marriage. If the pet was acquired by a spouse before the marriage, that spouse will typically remain the owner after divorce. However, there are some exceptions to this.

Providing for the Pet’s Well-Being

Fortunately, a new law went into effect in 2018 that differentiates pets from property like vehicles and jewelry. If the pet is a marital asset, the court now considers the well-being of the pet when deciding how to allocate ownership. If one spouse has traditionally been responsible for feeding, exercising, grooming, and caring for the pet’s health needs, the court will be much more likely to award ownership to that spouse. If you wish to maintain ownership of your pet after the divorce, start collecting evidence that proves your involvement in the pet’s life, such as photos, videos, receipts, and veterinary bills. 

Another factor courts may take into consideration when making decisions about pets is the allocation of parental responsibility and parenting time. Children often grow very close to family pets. A parent may argue that he or she should keep the pet because he or she is the parent with the majority of the parenting time. 

If your divorce case does not go to court, you may be able to resolve disagreements about pets through mediation or the collaborative law process. Some divorcing couples choose to share ownership of the pet similar to the way parents share custody of their children. However, this may not be a realistic option for every divorcing couple.

Contact a DuPage County Asset Division Lawyer

If you are planning to get divorced, and you have concerns related to property division, child custody, child support, spousal maintenance, or another family law issue, contact an experienced Wheaton divorce lawyer at The Stogsdill Law Firm, P.C. Call our office at 630-462-9500 and schedule a confidential consultation to learn how we can help you resolve your divorce issues quickly and efficiently.

Sources:

https://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/documents/075000050K503.htm

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