How to determine pet custody is divorce cases

On behalf of Lake Toback Attorneys

With divorce comes a lot of questions. With so many issues both big and small to figure out, the process of divorce can seem overwhelming. One question not often discussed, yet is certainly a valid concern for many Illinois couples, is how to determine who gets to maintain custody of any family pets after divorce proceedings are finalized.

In most states, including Illinois, the family pet is generally considered personal property, and assignment of ownership is addressed during the property division stage of the divorce process. Things that are considered marital property are subject to an equitable distribution under Illinois laws. In this situation, a court may look at the ability each spouse has to properly care for the animal and the effect certain ownership would have on children, if applicable, before deciding who gets to keep the pet. However, if it can be proven that the pet is nonmarital property, or property that was owned before the marriage or received as a gift, then the spouse claiming the animal as their own personal property is often allowed to keep the pet.

In some instances, the determination of pet ownership by means of equitable distribution laws brings up concerns for divorcing couples. For many, the family pet is really considered a member of the family. A recent poll, conducted by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, has shown a noticeable increase in pet custody issues among divorcing couples across the country. With that, more couples have been requesting shared custody of their pet.

Though judges in Illinois may only see a pet as marital property, couples who are close to the pet and have a more in-depth relationship with the animal may want more for their beloved family member. If ownership is granted to one spouse, but a shared custody is desired, it may be possible to negotiate terms of pet custody outside of court. Divorce and pet custody issues can be difficult to handle; however, as long as couples are willing to openly discuss the situation, it is possible to come up with a solution that works for everyone.

Source:, “Divorce? Who gets the pets?!“, , July 18, 2014

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How to determine pet custody is divorce cases