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Who gets ownership of pets in a divorce?

| May 1, 2020 | Divorce |

About 84.9 million families own a pet across the country—that accounts for about 67% of households. Owners spend billions of dollars on their pets, with the amount increasing steadily over the year. Most people consider their pet an integral part of their family, giving it the love and care they would a child. This is why they fight custody battles in divorces over their pets similar to they would their children.

Divorce is not easy for any one and much has been said about how custody battles over children are drawn out and cause emotional devastation. However, not as much as the equally difficult and drawn out pet custody battle. More than a quarter of lawyers have noticed an increase in the number of couples fighting over family pets in court. It may come as no surprise then to hear that Illinois is one of the handful of states that has passed laws to take a pet’s wellbeing into account during property division.

While many laws exist to ensure a child’s best interests are kept in mind during the divorce, the same consideration is not afforded to pets. Most states treat pets as property during a divorce, and therefore do not take into account any emotional attachment or wellbeing when deciding who gets custody of the pet. Therefore, most pets end up going to the person who paid for him or her. Illinois however differs in their approach, allowing courts to take into account the wellbeing of the animal, setting up temporary and permanent custody and also visitation.

However, the law may differ if the pet was not a marital asset—one that was bought during the marriage or given from one spouse to another during the marriage. in the former situation, it might be helpful to create provisions for the ownership of the pet in a prenuptial agreement—pup nup as it is commonly referred to.

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View the profile of Illinois Family Law Attorney Alex Fawell
DCBA | DuPAGE County Bar Association Member
Lead Counsel Rated Attorney