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Which Spouse Gains Ownership of the Family Pet in an Illinois Divorce?

Posted on in Division of Assets

Naperville divorce lawyerFor many people, pets are more than property, they are part of the family. However, pet ownership falls under the umbrella of property division during divorce. The division of marital assets and debts is often one of the most consequential aspects of the divorce process. Divorcing couples often disagree about the value of property and debt and who should keep certain properties. If you have dogs, cats, horses, birds, or other pets, you may have questions about how pet ownership is decided in an Illinois divorce.

Negotiating an Agreement With Your Spouse

Divorcing couples may be able to reach their own agreement about how to allocate pets and other property without taking their case to court. Although it can be very difficult to reach an agreement with a soon-to-be-ex-spouse, it is possible. Many couples eventually reach a settlement about how to divide property through attorney-led negotiations. Others turn to mediation or collaborative law. Often, one spouse retains ownership of pets while the other spouse is assigned an equitable share of different marital assets. Other times, couples choose to share ownership of pets similarly to how parents share custody of children.

Taking Your Case To Trial

The majority of Illinois divorce cases are resolved via settlement. However, there are some cases in which a couple simply cannot agree on a property division arrangement. If you and your spouse cannot reach an agreement through negotiations or alternative resolution methods like mediation and collaborative law, your case may go to trial. For years, Illinois courts treated dogs, cats, and other family pets exactly the same as other assets. If the pet was acquired by a spouse before the marriage took place, the pet may be classified as separate property and assigned to the original owner. If the pet was acquired after the marriage, the animal was subject to the same equitable distribution laws as other assets.

Fortunately, the law has since been updated to account for the fact that pets are not the same as inanimate property like furniture. If you and your spouse do not reach an out-of-court agreement about pets, a judge will decide for you. The current law gives judges the ability to factor in the pet’s wellbeing and health when determining “pet custody.” Judges consider which spouse primarily cared for the pet and which spouse is in a better position to care for the pet in the future.

Contact a Naperville Pet Custody Lawyer

It can be challenging to determine who should keep your furry family member if your marriage ends in divorce. If you are planning to divorce and you have questions or concerns about which spouse will keep the family pet, contact Pesce Law Group, P.C. for help. Call 630-352-2240 and set up a free consultation with one of our skilled DuPage County divorce attorneys today.



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