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Who keeps the dog after divorce?

On Behalf of | Jan 3, 2019 | Uncategorized |

Divorce is an emotionally complex process with many hot-button issues between spouses. The more common heated topics couples face during a split are child custody and property division, but another frequently contentious issue is who gets to keep the dog. Many couples worry about pet ownership as they start divorce proceedings.

Humans have strong bonds with their pets and some even consider them to be “one of the kids”, so it’s no wonder that pet ownership is an issue that causes much anxiety during the divorce process. Families have long considered the pet to be a member of the family and in the last year, Illinois law has made changes to accommodate that.

Illinois law considers the needs of the pet

Prior to the new law effective in early 2018, pets were considered like other property in divorce and divided between spouses–like the boat or dishes. Now, if a decision about pet ownership ends up before a judge, he or she can consider several factors when deciding custody.

It’s best if a family can decide on their own, but if they can’t, a court will look at:

  • The bonds a pet has with its owners.
  • Which of the owners arranged for the care of the pet.
  • Which party purchased the food and supplies for the animal.
  • The repercussions a separation might have on other family members.

Much like child custody, a judge can grant sole custody to one owner or joint custody to both owners depending on the situation.


Divorce is a tough process in so many ways, but knowing the well-being of your pet is part of the consideration can give you peace of mind in an otherwise stressful time.