Thomas M. Gurewitz, Attorney At Law

Who gets the dog in divorce?

If you’re in the midst of a divorce, you know that there are a number of hot-button issues to consider as you disentangle your lives, such as child custody and dividing up the property and assets. But an increasingly common and heated topic couples face is who gets to keep the dog after they split.

Families have long considered their pets to be a member of their family and the thought of losing Fido to your ex can be heartbreaking. People have strong bonds with their dogs and cats which makes deciding pet custody an emotional and complicated process. A recent change to Illinois law agrees.

Illinois law recognizes pets in divorce

Only a handful of states recognize the importance of pets in the divorce proceedings and luckily, Illinois is one of them. In early 2018, Illinois changed the law to give judges more discretion when it comes to deciding where the dog will reside. Previously under Illinois law, pets were viewed like other property, similar to the car or TV, to be split between the couple. But now, the well-being of the pet is part of the decision.

Factors to be considered

If a couple isn’t able to decide pet custody on their own, a court can look at a number of factors to make a decision on their behalf. Some of the things a judge will consider are:

  • The bonds a pet has with its owners.
  • Which party might be better suited to care for the animal.
  • The age and health of the pet.
  • Which of the owners arranged for care or purchased the food and supplies.
  • The effect a separation might have on other family members.

Much like child custody, a judge could grant sole custody or joint custody where a pet is shared between two exes.

Knowing your pet’s best interest is part of your divorce decision can give you peace of mind during an otherwise emotional time.

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