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How Do You Determine Who Keeps Your Pet After Divorce?

 Posted on February 18, 2020 in Divorce

How Do You Determine Who Keeps Your Pet After Divorce?A pet is not a mere object to most people who own them. The emotional bond that you form with your pets makes them more like family members to you. Illinois divorce law used to treat pets like properties that must be divided between spouses, but that practice changed with the enactment of a new pet custody law in 2018. Now, courts consider the well-being of pets when divorcees argue over who should keep a pet, which is similar to how courts settle parenting disputes.

What Counts as a Pet?

For the purpose of divorce, Illinois law makes a distinction between “companion animals” and “service animals.” A service animal is any animal that has been trained for the purpose of helping someone who is disabled. A companion animal is any animal that is not a service animal. You cannot claim ownership of a service animal that your spouse needs to perform their everyday tasks.

How Pet Custody Works

Illinois’ divorce law still defines pets as properties that can be marital or nonmarital. A pet is a marital property if you purchased it during your marriage, with an exception for pets that were gifts or inheritances. You can also stipulate whether a pet is a marital property in a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

When a pet is a marital asset, the court can allocate sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for the pet if the divorcees cannot reach an agreement on their own. Using the word “responsibility” distinguishes pets from other marital properties. In a joint ownership agreement, both owners would share the cost of caring for the pet, including food and medical care.

Pet’s Best Interest

Courts are instructed to consider the well-being of a pet when deciding whether to award joint ownership or which party should have sole ownership. Unlike with children, Illinois’ divorce law does not specify what factors make up the best interests of a pet, but those factors may include:

  • Which owner can provide a better living situation for the pet
  • Whether one owner is has been primarily responsible for the pet’s care
  • Whether one owner has a stronger bond with the pet
  • Whether children from the marriage have a bond with the pet
  • How regularly switching between homes would affect the pet

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Lawyer

Deciding who should keep a pet after your divorce could lead to an emotional argument between you and your spouse. You need a Naperville, Illinois, divorce attorney at Calabrese Associates, P.C., to help settle the dispute or make a case for ownership in court. Schedule a consultation by calling 630-393-3111.


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