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Can a Divorcing Couple Split Custody of a Pet?

 Posted on February 09, 2023 in Divorce

IL divorce lawyerWhen people think of “custody” in a divorce, they are nearly always thinking about children. But what about pets? Despite not being humans, they can still feel like members of the family, and the prospect of losing a pet in addition to the other challenges of divorce may feel like too much to bear.

Fortunately, there are solutions to the question of pet ownership and custody after an Illinois divorce. If you are in the divorce process or are considering divorce and are wondering how it could impact your or your children’s relationship with your family pet, read on.

Is a Pet Considered Property Under Illinois Law?

Issues with pet custody are not handled the same way that issues with child custody are. This is because Illinois law treats pets as property - fundamentally the same as any other piece of property, like a house, car, or investment account. For people who own expensive pets as hobbies or investments, such as professional horse breeders, this makes a lot of sense; for people who just love their family dog, this can seem a little callous.

Nevertheless, in the eyes of the law, your pet is property, and marital property must be divided in a divorce. Illinois law requires marital property to be divided “fairly and equitably,” and spouses are given wide leeway in determining how they want to handle the property division process. Fortunately, this means that a couple also has flexibility when creating a post-divorce agreement for their pet. Spouses can decide on a “custody” schedule, as well as determine who will pay for certain needs of a pet.

If spouses cannot agree about what to do with a pet, or if there is serious factual disagreement as to whether a pet is marital or personal property (which does not have to be divided), a judge may get involved. If a pet is marital property and there are minor children who are attached to the pet, the judge may order the pet to follow the children as they make their regular transitions back and forth from each parent’s home. If the pet is found to be personal property (based on a number of factors, including whether it was a gift and which spouse handled the majority of the pet’s care), the pet may end up belonging to only one partner.

Get in Touch with an Experienced Team of Wheaton, IL Divorce Lawyers

At Goostree Law Group, we know pets are like family. And as DuPage County family law attorneys, we strive to make sure the whole family is addressed in divorce proceedings. That is why you can trust us to give you sound legal advice, based on a thorough, up-to-date understanding of Illinois law and your own personal preferences. Call us today at 630-364-4046 to schedule a complimentary consultation.




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