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What Happens to My Pet in an Illinois Divorce?

On Behalf of | Oct 25, 2023 | Divorce

Most people are familiar with the usual issues that need to be settled in a divorce: Who will get to keep the family home? How will custody of the children be divided? What will happen with retirement funds and insurance policies? But something that is less commonly discussed as a divorce issue is the fate of a family pet.

Since a pet is an animal, it would generally be considered property. However, in many families, the pet is regarded as a genuine part of the family. In such cases, it is no longer a simple matter of dividing up whatever the couple once owned together. If you are considering divorce and concerned about where your beloved pet will end up, a compassionate Chicago, IL divorce lawyer can go over your concerns with you and advocate for an optimal resolution.

If We Both Love Our Pet, How Do We Decide Who Gets Her?

It can be quite difficult to figure out which spouse will get a family pet in a divorce settlement. Similar to other aspects of a divorce settlement, you will need to gather evidence to support whatever claims you will be making about this pet. Whether you bought or adopted the pet, there should be records and paperwork that can show proof of ownership. There could be records at your local veterinarian’s office with information that can establish a timeline and patterns of which spouse tended to the pet more. Videos and photographs can also be used to show which spouse was the pet’s main caregiver. Based on whatever is brought before the court, the judge might decide that it would be in the pet’s best interest to be with one of the spouses.

Is My Pet Considered Property?

There was a time when pets were considered property, exactly like anything else a couple could own. However, some pet-related additions were made to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act in 2018. Since then, courts have considered the pet’s well-being when determining if either spouse has more of a claim on the pet.

If either spouse owned the pet before the marriage, it would most likely be considered non-marital property and, as such, would typically go to the spouse who purchased or adopted it before the marriage began. If someone gave that spouse the pet as a gift, the same would be true. However, if the pet was bought or adopted during the marriage, it might be considered marital property. Then, the couple would generally need to agree on this in addition to all the other aspects of a divorce settlement.

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Chicago, IL Divorce Lawyer

If you believe you are headed toward divorce and you want to try to make sure your pet stays with you, a Chicago, IL marital property attorney can answer whatever questions you may have. Please call NextLevel Law, P.C. by Daniel R. Hernandez, Esq. at 312-442-2225 so we can schedule your free consultation and take the first step in ensuring a happy outcome for you and your pet.