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Who gets to keep the family dog after divorce?

| Jun 11, 2020 | Family Law |

You might be more familiar with how the court approaches splitting property or deciding on child custody during divorce. But what about the family dog?

In Illinois, there’s been recent legislation approved that can affect which home the family dog will end up living after you separate from your ex. Understanding separate laws guiding property division and pet custody can give you an idea of whether you or ex will end up keeping the family dog.

Property division in Illinois

In the state of Illinois, property division in divorce follows an equitable distribution rule. Under this rule, the court splits all marital assets in a fair manner. Marital assets include any property or debt you and your ex acquired through the course of your marriage. Since there are a lot of items that you can’t cut in half — like the framed painting above your fireplace — the division usually won’t be 100% equal.

Prior to 2018, courts would decide which home to place family pets in based on the equitable distribution rule. However, recent legislation could require divorced couples to continue to share the family dog.

Pet custody rule

According to an amendment made to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act in 2018, the court can award sole or joint ownership of a dog if it is indeed a marital asset. Similar to child custody rulings, the judge and jury will take a look at which home your pet will thrive most in after divorce. For example, if it is a large dog and needs a lot of exercise, then the court might grant your spouse sole custody if they have a larger yard with a fence.

You and your spouse have the best understanding as to how your pets fits into your family dynamics. So, it’s useful to note how you think the court should decide pet custody matters prior to your court date. Speaking with an experienced family law attorney can help you reach fair agreement on where the family dog will live after your divorce.