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Arlington Heights divorce attorney property division

Pets are often considered special members of any family. For those couples who do not have children, their dog or cat can seem like a child. According to the 2019-2020 National Pet Owners Survey conducted by the American Pet Products Association (APPA), 67 percent of American households, or approximately 85 million families, own a pet. There are many different types of pets one can have, and some of the most common include dog, cat, rabbit, turtle, hamster, guinea pig, lizard, bird, or snake. When a couple decides to part ways and gets a divorce, a common question is what happens to the family pet or pets? Understanding how asset and property division, as well as child custody work in Illinois, can help determine where a pet will reside post-divorce. 

The Division of Marital Property Is Fair

In Illinois, marital property is divided using the “equitable division” method, which means that instead of assets being split in half, they are divided fairly. In some cases, a couple may agree on who gets what, including their pet. Several factors are considered by a judge if a couple cannot agree to the terms on their own, such as the length of the marriage and each spouse’s contributions to the marriage. Every situation is unique, so what works for one family may not work for others. In cases where there is more than one pet, the spouses may agree to each take one.

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Rolling Meadows family law attorney, custody of pets, pets and divorce, pet custody law, divorcing spousesWhen the divorce process is put into motion, sudden and abrupt shifts in the structure of the affected household shortly follow. As a parent/spouse moves out of the home, those left behind must figure out how to adjust to this new reality. Children are known to struggle with these drastic changes in living situations, and the focus of divorcing spouses are, understandably, geared towards making the transition as easy as possible.

Child custody, generally, is a big facet of many divorces. However, another member of a household that can be overlooked in the shuffle — one that still feels the impact of the divorce — is the family pet. How central the family pet is to a household varies greatly from family to family, but deciding which spouse will have primary responsibility for the animal's care can be a hotly contested issue.

Americans, in general, place a high degree of importance on their pets that is reflected in the amount of money consumers annually spend on pet-related purchases — $66.75 billion in 2016. Recognizing the new status of pets as full family members in many households, as well as the difficulties of determining which spouse will retain possession in a divorce, the Illinois Legislature passed a Bill that addresses this issue. The Bill is currently awaiting the governor's signature, and would provide clarification and direction to Courts when pet custody is unsettled.

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