The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C.


1444 North Farnsworth Avenue, Suite 307, Aurora, IL 60505

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What Happens to my Pets in a Divorce?

Posted on May 31, 2017 in Divorce

What Happens to my Pets in a Divorce?, pets, divorce, illinois divorce attorney, division of property, martial assetsMarried or unmarried people sincerely love their pets. Roughly 78 million dogs and 86 million cats are owned throughout our nation. When a marriage between pet owners ends in divorce, one of the most contentious matters to navigate through is deciding who will take ownership of the pets in the dividing household.

Are Pets Subject to Court Ordered Visitation?

Illinois law mandates that “any person having a right of property in an animal, or who keeps or harbors an animal, or who has it in his care, or acts as its custodian is that animal’s owner.”

For example, a spouse who leaves the home of his or her ex-spouse who then attempts to assert ownership of the pet he left will likely have a difficult time getting a court to agree. The court would likely rely on previous Illinois law to determine who the legal owner of the animal was. In that event, the court would probably decide that since the husband had left the home, the pet was legally owned by the now ex-wife.

Non-Marital Property or Marital Property

One factor that may persuade the court regarding ownership of a pet after a marriage has been dissolved or ends in divorce is when the pet became part of the family. For example, if one of the spouses owned the pet before to the marriage, Illinois courts would likely award that pet to the spouse who was the original owner.

In contrast, marital property includes all property acquired during the marriage. If the pet was acquired during the marriage, the court is going to have to make a determination about who legally owns the pet.

What Factors Will the Court Consider When Analyzing Who Legally Owns the Pet?

There are steps you can take to increase your chances that the court will award you ownership of your pets if you get a divorce. Those steps include:

  • Buying the pet before you are married with your pre-marital funds
  • Entering into a pre or postnuptial agreement with language concerning ownership of the pets
  • Purchasing pet food
  • Taking the pet to the veterinarian

These steps may carry varying degrees of weight with the court, but they are steps one can take to improve their chances. It’s best to speak with a DuPage County divorce attorney to best assess what options you have and the best strategy to employ.

Have a Pet and Thinking About Divorce?

Going through a divorce is a complex emotional and legal rollercoaster. Add in children or in some cases furry pet companions that feel like children, and it can make for an abject legal mess if you do not have a proper DuPage County divorce lawyer at your side. Contact The Law Offices of Matthew M. Williams, P.C. in our Aurora office at 630-409-8184 to schedule your consultation today.


The Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C.


1444 North Farnsworth Avenue, Suite 307, Aurora, IL 60505

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