During a divorce, you may have to deal with things like asset division or figuring out child support or child custody. The last thing you probably thought about was what to do with man’s best friend, your dog, or your other pets. Interestingly, for families without children, and even in some with them, pets can be like children themselves. Sixty-two percent of American households include at least one pet, so it’s obvious that some pets are going to go through a divorce with their owners. What happens to them?
In some cases, if the two divorcing parties can’t decide on what to do with the pet in question, a judge will have to intervene. Pet custody disputes are not as uncommon as you’d think. In recent years, they have been on the rise. It would not be unheard of for one side in the divorce to use the pet against the other side, especially if one party has a stronger relationship with the pet. Using a pet as a bargaining chip may seem unfair, but in the eyes of a court, it’s simply another asset.
Since pets are legal property, you can always add a waiver to your prenuptial agreement or sign a contract that states who will receive your pet in the event of a divorce. If it’s past that time in your marriage, then consider a postnuptial agreement to save yourself trouble if you ever divorce.
If you’re already in the midst of a divorce, the court may be able to help you work through this issue. First of all, whose pet is it? Was it yours before or during the marriage? Who takes care of your pet? Where are your children going to live, and is it best for your pet to live with your children? Who has a better lifestyle for a pet? These are all questions you need to ask yourself so that you and your Illinois family law attorney can fight for custody of your pet.
Source: Forbes, “How Are Pets Handled In Divorce?” Jeff Landers, Nov. 27, 2014