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Pet Custody Disputes During Divorce in DuPage County 

 Posted on September 19, 2022 in Divorce

dupage county divorce lawyerAccording to, 85 million American families, or 67 percent of households, have at least one pet. Family pets provide immense emotional, mental, and physical benefits to their owners. A Human Animal Bond Research Institute (HABRI) survey affirms that 79 percent of pet owners believe their pets alleviate stress. Pets may also help reduce depression, anxiety, and cardiovascular disease. A 2019 study discovered dog ownership could minimize the risk of the owner's death by 24 percent. Suffice it to say, pets are endeared by most and often treated like family members.

Determining ownership of a pet during divorce can be as complex, harrowing, and contentious as enduring a child custody battle. A divorce attorney can help untangle the conflicts associated with pet ownership disputes during divorce.  

Illinois Law Regarding Pet Ownership

Effective January 1, 2018, a law concerning companion pets, but not service pets, was added to Section 503(n) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. Rather than treating a pet as property to be divided in divorce proceedings, pets are treated similarly to children, granting disputing spouses more options for “pet custody.” Before that amendment, the disputing party had no judicial recourse to contest the ownership awarded to the former spouse. Former spouses, who may or may not have children, can be awarded joint ownership, or “custody,” or visitation plans.

Specifying ownership and responsibility for a pet in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement can mitigate possible acrimony in the event of a divorce.  A clause can be written in the marital agreement, enabling the court to determine ownership.  The clause can also include arrangements about future pets as well as the issue of dividing multiple pets between each party.  Including plans for pets like show dogs or race horses, which have monetary value, is also a good idea.

Ten Considerations of the Court 

Like the best interest of the child, the court now considers the best interest of the pet if divorcing spouses cannot reach an agreement about pet ownership. Presenting documents, such as training certificates, grooming, and pet store receipts, can help substantiate the party’s claim that they are the more dedicated caregiver of the pet. Photos and videos of playing with and caring for the pet can also corroborate devotion. A judge will evaluate many factors, including but not limited to the following.  

  1. How long have you owned the pet?

  2. How many pets have you owned throughout the duration of your marriage?

  3. Was the pet purchased or adopted before or during the marriage?

  4. Do you have adoption papers or invoices proving the non-marital ownership of the pet?

  5. Was the pet a gift from your spouse?

  6. Who trained the pet?

  7. Who is the pet’s primary day-to-day caregiver?

  8. Are your children attached to the pet, and if so, which parent was awarded the majority of parenting time?

  9. Where will each parent reside, and is the environment conducive to caring for the pet?

  10. What is your daily schedule?

Contact a DuPage County Family Law Attorney

Our results-oriented lawyers at Pesce Law Group P.C., a full-service family law firm, relentlessly advocate for our client's rights. At Pesce Law Group P.C., we strategically devise plans tailored to our client's needs. We understand the emotional bonds with a pet can be akin to that of a child. If you are divorcing and seeking "custody" of your family pet, contact a Burr Ridge family law attorney at 630-352-2240 for a free consultation.


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