When a couple splits up and ends their marriage they have to settle a lot of issues, including who gets custody of the children – if they have kids – and how they will divide their property. However, one aspect of property distribution that may often be overlooked is what happens to the family pet? This might seem like an afterthought to some, but for many people the family pet(s) is exactly that: part of the family. Where the dog, cat or other type of pet ends up and with whom it spends time can be just as contentious as any other part of the divorce.
So how is custody of the family pet determined? While it might seem logical that pets would be treated just like children because they are living, breathing things, the fact is, in the eyes of the law, they are treated just like any other piece of property. However, there are several factors at play in these kinds of situations. First, if there are children involved who have a connection to the pet then the pet will most likely go wherever the children go. Pets can travel back and forth between both homes, including with the children when they split time between parents. However, things can be much different when no kids are involved.
If there are no children then a judge must determine with whom the pet will live. That means the judge will first have to decide if the pet is marital or separate property. If one spouse had the pet before the marriage then it’s likely the pet will remain with that spouse in the divorce. On the other hand, if the pet is deemed marital property then a tough decision will have to be made. A judge may base that decision on several factors, including, but not limited to the monetary value of the pet and how much of that monetary value each spouse put into the pet. A judge might also consider the health of each spouse to determine which one would be better equipped to care for the pet.
Of course, couples also have the option to work out a shared agreement on their own, which could be beneficial because then they would both get to maintain a relationship with the animal. This can be difficult to do, but it could also save time in the divorce settlement process and prevent one of the spouses from losing a pet that he or she loves. In any case, if you are going through divorce and you have a pet, then don’t overlook this important aspect of your settlement. Please contact the Women’s Divorce & Family Group if you need help with your divorce in Chicago, at 312-445-8830. You can also reach us online.
This should only be considered as general information and is not intended to be legal advice. You should always contact an attorney to decide what is best for you in your particular case and circumstances.
There are many factors to consider when contemplating divorce, and a pre-divorce planning session can help you begin to plan for a divorce. Please contact the professionals at the Women’s Divorce & Family Law Group by calling (312) 585-6604 or clicking here to schedule a consultation.
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