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Dogs, cats, and other pets are wonderful additions to families and are often considered “children” by some of their owners. A person going through divorce may want to do everything in his or her power to ensure the dog stays with him or her after the marriage is officially dissolved.

All of this begs the question as to where the law comes down on how to treat dogs and other pets during a divorce. The answer may shock you. Courts treat pets as any other piece of property couples need to divide during a divorce, even if they are living, breathing, furry property.

That being said, there are some courts that take a more compassionate stance on the issue of where the pets end up after a divorce but at the end of the day, they are legally defined as property. With a little understanding of Illinois divorce laws, individuals going through a divorce can get a better grasp of what to expect for their pet when seeking a dissolution of marriage.

Illinois divorce property division

Property owned between two spouses is generally divided into two categories: marital and nonmarital property. Marital property in Illinois is defined as any property acquired from the beginning of the marriage until the petition for divorce is filed. Nonmarital property is any property acquired before the marriage, after the marriage, or during the marriage as a gift or inheritance, and may stay that way, depending on the circumstances of the marriage.

If you got your dog before you were married, courts may hold that the animal is your nonmarital property and not subject to division like other entities. If, on the other hand, the dog was acquired while both individuals were married, it may be considered marital property and subject to legal wrangling.

Illinois is an equitable distribution state, meaning all marital property is not divided up 50/50 (community property) but rather apportioned in a just and fair manner. When dividing up property between divorcing spouses, judges take into account a myriad of factors, including (but not limited to):

  • The economic circumstances of each spouse;
  • Each spouse’s occupation;
  • Contributions to the acquisition of marital property; and
  • The liabilities and needs of each spouse.

What this means for dogs is that the court may look at each side and determine which situation is better for the wellbeing of the animal. Other factors that may influence who gets to keep the dog after a divorce include:

  • Who took the dog to the vet;
  • Which person was responsible for the dog’s health and grooming;
  • Who takes the dog for walks and supervises it; and
  • Who is in the best financial position to support the dog.

Lombard divorce attorneys

If you are going through a divorce and have questions about who could end up getting what in your divorce, including the family pet, contact our office for a consultation about your case. The experienced and dedicated Lombard divorce attorneys of Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. serve clients throughout Naperville, Wheaton, Downers Grove, Lombard, Lisle, and Aurora.

 

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