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Who is Entitled to the Pet in an Illinois Divorce?

Posted on in Illinois Divorce

Kane County divorce lawyerDivorce can be very difficult for a number of reasons. It can often become fairly contentious when a former couple must battle for custody of their children, but what about their pets? Although laws tend to look at pets as a form of property, many people consider their pets to be valued and loved members of the family. Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), the placement of family pets or companion animals depends upon a few different factors.

Is the Pet a Marital Asset?

The placement of the family pet is dependent upon Section 5/503(n) of the IMDMA. This provision of the law explains that if the court finds the pet to be considered a marital asset, it will allocate ownership of and responsibility for the companion animal. This means that one spouse could receive sole ownership of the pet, or both parties could be awarded joint ownership. In making this decision, the court is now obligated to examine the well-being of the animal.

When is a Pet Considered a Marital Asset in Illinois?

A marital asset is usually any property that is acquired after a couple is married, so if the spouses adopted a pet while they were married, it will likely be a factor in the divorce. However, a pet could be considered non-marital property if it was gifted or left as an inheritance specifically to one spouse, or if a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement states that the pet belongs to one spouse alone. If the pet is not considered to be a marital asset, then whoever is the legal owner of it will likely keep it as non-marital property in the divorce. A service animal is also considered to belong to the spouse who benefits from its services.

Factors for Determining a Companion Animal’s Well-Being

While there is no separate law explaining the factors a court will use to determine a pet’s well-being, the court may look to similar provisions concerning human children. When looked at through the lens of a pet owner, some of these factors include things such as:

  • Who was primarily responsible for the care of the pet

  • Who can better meet the needs of the pet

  • Whether there was a prior legal agreement regarding ownership of the pet

  • How far apart the parties’ new residences are from one another

  • The health of the pet and owners

  • Any children and their relationships with the animal

  • The ability of the parties to cooperate with one another to care for the pet

  • Any foreseeable threats to the animal

  • Anything else that the court deems relevant

Contact a Kane County Divorce Lawyer

Pets are often considered to be members of the family, and fighting for custody of them can be extremely important. The St. Charles, Illinois divorce lawyers at Weiler & Lengle P.C. understand the importance of all of your family members–even your pets. We can help you understand your rights. For a confidential consultation, call 630-382-8050 today.



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