To prevent animal division battles, an amendment made to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act allows two ex-spouses to share custody of their pets. Since January 1, 2018, the family court judges have accepted divorcing couples’ joint custody arrangements for their animals.

Instead of fighting over your dog’s ownership, you and your spouse could agree on a schedule for sharing custody of it. Similar to awarding custody of children, a judge’s decree may order a dog to reside with you during certain days of the week, and then stay with your ex-spouse on the other days. An arrangement, however, must receive court approval.The exception is if you owned a pet before your marriage or received one as a gift or inheritance after your wedding. The courts then generally consider that animal as your own separate property.

Prenuptial agreements and pet ownership

Prenuptial agreements addressing the ownership of your pets, also called “pup nups,” have become popular in The Prairie State. A pup nup outlines how you or your spouse may keep any animals acquired together if you decide to dissolve your marriage.

Even with an established pup nup, however, you or your spouse may argue the ownership of a pet after spending time bonding with an animal and caring for it. As reported by Kiplinger magazine, a survey of divorce lawyers disclosed that 88 percent of court battles included ownership of a couple’s dog.