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Who Gets the Family Pets in an Illinois Divorce?

Posted on in Division of Assets

DuPage County divorce attorneysWhen a married couple divorces, they will need to decide how all of their marital assets are divided. If spouses cannot reach an agreement about property distribution, the court will decide a property division arrangement on the couple’s behalf. One question many divorcing individuals have is, “How are pets managed during divorce?” Although you probably think of your dog, cat, horse, bird, fish, or reptile as more of a family member than a piece of property, the law generally treats pets as property. However, Illinois made changes to the way “pet custody” is handled during divorce in 2018. Read on to learn about this relatively new law and how it may affect your divorce case.  

Pet Ownership Laws in Illinois

Pets are still effectively considered property for the purposes of divorce in Illinois. If a pet is considered a non-marital asset, it will be assigned to the original owner. If the pet is considered a marital asset, a determination will need to be made regarding who will own the pet after the divorce. Although pets are not treated exactly the same as children in a divorce, the new law does make a distinction between pets and other property like bank accounts and furniture. Section 503 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states that if the pet is considered to be part of the marital estate, the court “shall allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal of the parties…the court shall take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal.”

Sometimes, a spouse will argue for ownership of a pet simply to get revenge on the other spouse or draw out the divorce proceedings out of spite. Illinois judges consider which spouse can best provide for the pet’s welfare and who has been the primary caretaker for the pet in the past. This helps reduce the incidences of spouse acquiring ownership of a pet that they do not actually plan to love and care for. Spouses may also choose to share responsibility for pets.

Contact a Naperville Property Division Attorney

Figuring out who will keep a beloved family pet in a divorce can add additional challenge to the already difficult process of ending a marriage. To learn more about how pet ownership is managed in an Illinois divorce, speak with an experienced DuPage County divorce lawyer from Pesce Law Group P.C. Call our office today at 630-352-2240 to schedule a free initial consultation.

 

Sources:

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

https://aldf.org/article/illinois-becomes-second-state-require-courts-consider-wellbeing-companion-animals-custody-disputes/

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