Who Keeps the Family Pets After a Divorce?

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Who Keeps the Family Pets After a Divorce?

Going through a divorce can be a difficult and emotional process for everyone involved. There are many decisions that need to be made regarding the division of property and financial obligations. In addition, many couples find themselves in disagreement about who should keep the family pets after a divorce. Your pets are an important part of your life, so it’s natural to be concerned about their well-being after your divorce. At Andrea Heckman Law, we’re here to help you understand who has the rights to family pets during an Illinois divorce and how our team can help during this process. 

Understanding Martial vs. Non-Marital Property

In order to decide which spouse keeps the pets during a divorce, a court will examine if the pets are considered marital or non-marital property. Marital property is anything that is determined to be owned by both spouses. In Illinois marriages, most property that was acquired during the marriage, regardless of whose name is on the property, is considered marital.. For example, if a couple purchased an animal together after they were married, the animal would be considered marital property. 

Non-marital property in Illinois includes property that was gifted or previously acquired by one spouse. If one spouse owned the animal before the marriage began, it might be considered non-marital. However, if both spouses were responsible for the care and well-being of the animal, including any financial obligations, the animal would be considered marital property. 

Most non-marital property will be granted to the spouse that has ownership over the property. The same is true for pet ownership. If one spouse solely owns the pet, it’s most likely going to stay with that owner. However, in most cases, the pet is considered marital property, and the court must then decide which spouse receives ownership. 

If the Pet Is Marital Property, Who Has Ownership?

There are many factors that go into determining who has ownership of family pets if they’re considered marital property:

  • -The Primary Person Responsible for Their Care

If one spouse has been the primary caretaker for the pet, including such tasks as feeding, bathing, and attending to any medical needs, the court is most likely to grant ownership to that spouse. The court is responsible for determining what is in the pet’s best interests before granting ownership, so they need to ensure that whoever has ownership is taking proper care of the animal. 

  • -The Primary Person Responsible for Childcare

Oftentimes, children are emotionally attached to the family pets, and spouses want to make sure that their children are able to continue to have contact with them.. If it is found to be in the pet’s best interests to stay with the spouse responsible for childcare, the court may grant them the rights to the pets. 

  • -Spouse Agreement on Ownership

If both spouses can agree on who should have ownership of the pets, and the court agrees with this decision, they may grant ownership to the designated spouse. However, if the court finds one spouse unfit to care for the pets, they may overrule this agreement. 

Contact Our Dedicated Legal Team Today

Pets are an important part of the family, so if you have questions about your rights as a pet owner in Illinois divorces, contact our team today. We are more than happy to help you during this process.

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Andrea Heckman

Managing Attorney

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