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Who Keeps the Pets After Divorce?

 Posted on July 16, 2024 in Property Division

IL divorce lawyerWhile legally, pets are property, realistically, they are more like family members. The bond between people and their companion animals can be incredibly strong. Losing a pet in your divorce can impact your mental health and lead to a sense of loss. Many pet owners find that being responsible for a dog or cat makes them more active and much happier. Prior to 2018, courts had no choice but to allocate dogs, cats, birds, and other companion animals as they would any other marital asset - by awarding them to one spouse or the other. Now, courts have the ability to award joint ownership of the family pets. A Will County, IL divorce lawyer can help you work out a custody-like arrangement for your pets or fight to keep them in your sole custody.

Factors in Allocating Ownership of Marital Companion Animals 

In some cases, a pet very clearly belongs to one spouse or the other. This is often the case when one spouse had the pet long before getting married. In other cases, the couple adopted the pet together and shared the work and cost of caring for it. Some things the court might consider when allocating sole or joint ownership of your companion animals include: 

  • The animal’s well-being - Happily, Illinois courts can look at pets not just as property but as sentient beings with needs and rights. The court will consider each spouse’s ability and willingness to care for the animal properly and whether the pet is more closely bonded with one spouse over the other. For example, if one spouse works long hours and the other is usually home, the pet might be better off with the person who will be around during the day. It also matters how moving back and forth between two households would affect the pet’s well-being. 
  • Each spouse’s needs - The needs of each spouse are always a relevant concern when dividing marital property. If one spouse has become emotionally dependent on the animal or would suffer harm if separated from his or her companion animal, the court might be more inclined to allocate sole ownership of the animal to that spouse. 
  • Who cares for the pet - If one spouse has taken on most of the responsibility for caring for the pet, such as by feeding it, walking it, and covering the cost of its veterinary care from his or her separate funds, that spouse might be more likely to get sole ownership. 

Contact a Will County, IL Divorce Lawyer 

Law Office of Ronald L. Hendrix, P.C. is committed to helping divorcing spouses make arrangements for the continued care of their companion animals. Our knowledgeable Naperville, IL divorce attorneys have over 35 years of combined experience in family law. Contact us at 630-355-7776 for a free consultation.

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