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Beloved Lab sparks pet custody dispute for Illinois couple

When Illinois couples go through a divorce, their attorneys work with them to divide their assets and personal belongings as fairly as possible. Sometimes the divorcing spouses’ emotional attachment to a particular item or pet sparks heated arguments that must be resolved in court, but in most cases, the former spouses are able to reach an agreement.

In several states, including Illinois, pets that were obtained while the couple was married are treated as marital property, which means that divorced spouses cannot share custody of them. For some couples, including one in Illinois, the loss of a beloved pet to a former spouse is devastating.

When the Illinois couple ended their marriage, the ex-wife became the sole owner of the black Labrador retriever that the couple had chosen together while they were married. Because the woman has a protective order against her former husband, the man has no contact with the dog. Before the divorce, the man took the dog for regular walks and even brought him on some business trips. The former wife, on the other hand, insists that sharing custody of the dog would be disruptive to the dog’s routine and stability, and that she is capable of caring for the dog on her own. Next month the court will decide which former spouse will have full ownership of the dog.

Some attorneys report that the number of pet custody disputes has risen in recent years. It is possible that these cases will be handled differently in the future. In the meantime, it is best for divorcing couples to rely on the expertise of a divorce attorney who can help them with the division of their assets.

Source: Chicago Tribune, “Divorcing couple struggles with pet custody,” Vikki Ortiz Healy, July 16, 2014

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