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Who Gets Custody of the Dog after Divorce?

By Nottage and Ward on June 15, 2012

Pets have become a large part of people’s lives, much more so than in the past; they are considered part of the family, whether it is a dog, cat, rabbit, snake, or even guinea pig. So what happens when a marriage ends? Divorcing couples regularly fight over property division and who gets the kids, but where does pet custody come in?

According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, pet custody issues in divorce have become more and more common, thanks to the evolution of societal views on animal companions. But the courts do not consider pets like children who must have a custody arrangement. Pets are considered property that will be awarded to one spouse or the other unless they come up with their own shared custody agreement.

Pets are also ammunition in some cases. One spouse will use the pet as leverage over the other for financial gain or even spite. Some spouses will end up paying large amounts of money to their soon-to-be-ex in order to have sole custody of their pet. Ultimately, it is best if both spouses can come to an agreement on their own. If a case goes to arbitration, however, there is more of a chance that you can reach an agreeable decision. If your pet’s custody is being worked out in mediation or collaborative divorce, everything is typically taken into account, such as who cared for the pet(s) most of the time, who paid for their food and care, who exercised them, and who paid for/took care of any medical needs.

It may be some time before the court systems see pets as members of the family rather than property, but until then, it is important to be prepared for any and all types of custody issues. If you are planning on getting a divorce in Illinois, the Chicago custody attorneys at Nottage and Ward can help you understand your legal rights and options. Call us today for a consultation at (312) 332-2915.

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