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Who Gets to Keep the Family Pet Following an Illinois Divorce?

 Posted on May 22, 2020 in Divorce

Wheaton asset division attorney pet ownership

Pets are often considered members of the family. According to the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 68 percent of American households have a pet. In the event of a divorce, pets are often included within the property and asset division process, and ownership of a pet may be awarded to one spouse. If a couple cannot agree on who gets to keep the pet, this decision may be made by the court.A judge will consider what is best for the health and well-being of the pet. In some cases, a shared visitation arrangement may be made, similar to ones made in child custody cases.

Marital Property 

Within the state of Illinois, a marital asset is considered property and/or assets that were acquired during a couple's marriage. Many couples purchase or adopt a dog or cat after they tie the knot as a way of expanding their family. In these situations, their furry companion would be considered marital property. 

In the event the marriage does not last, any marital property must be split according to the principle of equitable distribution. This means the assets will be divided fairly but not necessarily completely in half. This method applies unless stated otherwise within a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement. In some cases, couples may choose to include their pet within these types of agreements to avoid any arguments later. 

The Court’s Decision

If a divorcing couple does not have a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement addressing the future ownership of their pet(s), the court must decide on their behalf. If the court decides the animal is not a marital asset because one spouse owned the animal before getting married, then that spouse will continue to own the pet. However, an animal is considered a marital asset, the court must determine the future ownership and responsibility on behalf of the animal. When making that decision, the court will take several factors into consideration, such as the following:

  • The age and well-being of the animal

  • The wishes of all the parties involved, including the divorcing couple, as well as any children they have together

  • The living situation of the spouses

  • Which spouse has primarily cared for the animal, including feeding, walking, training, and taking to vet appointments 

  • Any other factors the court deems relevant

Shared Custody

Similar to a child custody arrangement, a divorcing couple may choose to co-own a pet and create a schedule for when the pet will live with each spouse following divorce. If this applies, a couple will likely want to make provisions in their divorce agreement regarding how they will divide future expenses and where the pet will stay when both parties are traveling. It is important to note that these considerations do not apply to service animals, who will remain with the partner to whom they are assigned.

Contact a Lombard, IL Property Division Lawyer

Divorce is rarely straightforward. Who gets to keep the family pet may be a source of great contention. If you have any questions or concerns regarding your rights and responsibilities within your divorce, contact a Wheaton divorce attorney from A. Traub & Associates immediately. With our dedicated and knowledgeable attorneys on your side, you can be assured that your rights to marital property will be protected. Call or text us at 630-426-0196 to schedule your confidential consultation.



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