Nearly 80 million households in the United States, including many in Illinois, own pets. In modern society, more Americans are delaying giving birth to children, so pets have become an increasingly important -- and contentious -- aspect of divorce. Determining who will get custody of a companion animal can be tricky when two divorcing individuals do not agree on the issue.
From a traditional point of view, pets are viewed as property by the law. That means they are seen as being similar to house plants and couches. However, emotional attachment may turn beloved pets into valuable bargaining chips during divorce negotiations.
Judges have a great deal of discretion when it comes to dividing property during a divorce. People can strengthen their claims if they can prove that they used their own money -- money they earned before getting married -- to purchase the pets or pay for their veterinary bills. Judges are now also looking at other factors during divorces involving pets, such as considering the pets' best interests, as well as the best interests of the family members who love them.
Dividing property during a divorce, including deciding who gets to keep the pet, can be a major point of contention during a divorce. However, with proper legal guidance in Illinois, people can learn their rights when it comes to property distribution and asset division. Both divorcing parties have the right to seek an outcome that is personally favorable to them while still taking into consideration the other party's wishes.
Source: Bloomberg, "In a Divorce, Who Gets to Keep the Family Dog?", Ben Steverman, April 29, 2016