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How is Ownership of the Family Pet Handled in an Illinois Divorce?

 Posted on June 30, 2020 in Division of Assets

Oak Brook marital property lawyerIf you are an animal lover, you may have serious concerns about what will happen to your pet after your divorce. For some divorcing couples, deciding who gets to keep the family pet is easy. If one spouse was the main caretaker of the pet or he or she had the pet prior to the relationship, it makes sense that he or she would retain ownership of the pet(s). However, when both spouses want to keep the pet or one spouse insists on keeping the pet simply to hurt the other spouse, the situation becomes much more complicated.

Options When Divorcing Spouses Disagree About Pets

Pets are considered property according to the law and are therefore subject to equitable distribution. If a spouse obtained a pet before getting married, it may be considered a non-marital asset and assigned to the spouse who originally owned the pet. However, if the pet is considered a marital asset, each spouse may have an equal claim to the animal. Your dog, cat, horse, or other pet is probably like a member of the family to you. Because of this, discussions about who should keep the pet can become quite heated. Collaborative law and mediation are two methods of alternative dispute resolution during which spouses work to negotiate issues such as property division. If you are struggling to reach an agreement about pets and other issues, you may want to consider pursuing one of these dispute resolution options.

“Pet Custody” in an Illinois Divorce

If you and your spouse are unable to reach an agreement about pet ownership or other property division concerns, the court will step in and make a decision for you. Fortunately, Illinois law does make a distinction between pets and non-living pieces of property. According to the current law, a judge may consider the health and well-being of a pet when deciding which spouse the pet should live with. A spouse who has been actively involved in pet caretaking responsibilities, such as feeding the pet and taking the pet to veterinary appointments, can make the argument that he or she is better equipped to care for the pet than a spouse who did not take on these responsibilities. Divorcing spouses may also choose to share ownership of the pet. If both you and your spouse want to keep the pet, you may be able to negotiate an arrangement where each of you has the pet on certain days or certain weeks.  

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Lawyer

Before an Illinois divorce can be finalized, you and your spouse must reach an agreement about the terms of your divorce - including the division of assets. This may include who gets to retain ownership of your family pet. If you cannot reach an agreement, the court will make a decision on your behalf. For help negotiating divorce issues or to learn more about alternative dispute resolution methods, contact the Pesce Law Group P.C. Call us today at 630-352-2240 and schedule a free consultation with one of our skilled Naperville divorce attorneys.



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