Divorcing couples have many questions when their marriage ends. One of the saddest is, “Who gets to keep the pet?” The question is an interesting one, and in recent years, Illinois has changed the law on how pets are viewed during divorce proceedings. While pets were once considered property, today some family courts, including those in Illinois, make decisions regarding pets based on child custody guidelines more than they do on property division laws.
Treating Pets Like Property During Divorce
Prior to 2018, Illinois treated pets as property during divorce. When a spouse brought a pet into the marriage, the pet was considered non-marital property and as such, was the property of the spouse that owned it prior to the nuptials. However, when a couple adopted or purchased a pet together during the marriage, the pet was considered marital property. In Illinois, marital property is divided fairly but not necessarily equally under the equitable distribution laws of the state.
Unlike other property, pets cannot be physically divided in a divorce. While a couple may have to sell a home and divide the proceeds, the same cannot be done with an animal. In most cases then, the spouse that kept the pet typically had to relinquish other property to make the division of property fair for both parties. Today, however, property division laws are not relied on as much when determining which spouse gets to keep the pet....