Who Keeps the Pets After a Divorce?

Updated on December 15, 2022
Updated: January 19, 2023

Anyone who has ever had a pet can tell you how important these animals are to us. They provide companionship, love, and unconditional loyalty. In addition, they help us feel better about ourselves. However, if one partner wants to get rid of his or her pet, the courts may not allow it. Under the law, the person who owns the animal is entitled to decide what happens to it.

Therefore, if your spouse wants to give away your beloved pet, he or she must do so through legal channels. Otherwise, you could end up losing your pet forever. So, who keeps pets after a divorce? Contact Tommalieh Law today for a free consultation with an experienced Orland Park divorce attorney!

Getting Custody of a Pet as a Pet Owner

Family pets are considered personal belongings. In a divorce proceeding, the court will divide family pets between the two parties just like any other asset. It would be best to work out an agreement about how each party should care for the animals before the divorce begins. Otherwise, the judge will decide what happens to the pets. If you're unsure whether you'll get along with your ex, ask them to keep the animal until they know you better. If you can prove that you bought the pet yourself, you might be able to keep him or her. You could also try showing receipts, proof of ownership, or testimony from people who saw you caring for the animal.

puppies, kittens, a rabbit, and a guinea pig grouped together, Who Keeps the Pets After a Divorce

Equitable Distribution of Pets During Divorce

If you want to know whether someone owns an animal legally, ask them directly. Sometimes one person may not want to take care of an animal but another might. Then, if both partners agree, things are easy. If both partners are willing to be involved with the pet and they can come to an arrangement, then the two people can set up visitation schedules for when each person gets to see the pet. They can also discuss who pays for things like veterinary bills and emergencies. It’s not uncommon for animals to travel with children when they visit their parents' homes.

If there is no resolution, it becomes harder for the judge to decide who keeps the pet. Eventually, however, the judge will determine which party has legal rights to the pet.

The pet may be considered a joint property of both parties, so the decision whether to give the pet to one of them depends on what each wants. If the pet was given to one of the partners as a wedding present, then it is likely that they will get it back. However, if the partner who received the pet did something wrong to harm the pet, then the other partner might decide to keep the pet instead. In cases where the couple is splitting up, the courts will consider how much contact the pets had with each partner before the split.

FAQ: Do I need a lawyer for divorce?

They will also take into account how much time the pets spent with each partner. If the pets were only with one partner for a short period of time, then the other partner could argue that he or she deserves the animals because they were deprived of having them for longer.

Your Pet's Best Interests

When you have a dissolution of marriage, there are many things that happen that affect everyone involved. These include the relationship between the two partners, the children, and the animals. For pets, a divorce can mean a change in residence, a change in routine, and the loss of companionship and love from someone who was once very important to them. In addition, during this time, it is essential to watch out for any behavioral or emotional problems that might arise. When these issues do not go away, it is important to seek professional help. If you notice any unusual behaviors or if your pet shows any sign of distress, take him/her to the vet immediately.

Fortunately, a breakup doesn't have to mean losing a beloved companion. In fact, you and your former partner can come to an amicable arrangement about how to share your pets. You'll both benefit from having a healthy relationship with your pet, so make sure you're willing to compromise. If you can't find common ground, the court might decide who gets the pet based on what's best for the animal. And if your state law requires judges to consider the welfare of animals in child and spousal disputes, you can help them understand why it's important to keep your furry friend close to home.

How Do Judges Choose Which Pets Get Adopted After a Divorce?

If you and your ex-spouse can't reach an agreement about who gets the pet after the split, the judge will probably rule in favor of one party or another. Pet custody law can be tricky.

woman playing with her dogs on the couch, Who Keeps the Pets After a Divorce

The judge will likely ask questions about when the pet was obtained or purchased, and if one spouse had taken the majority of responsibility for caring for the animal. They might also like to know which partner has been taking the most responsibility for the animal’s care over time. Because pets cannot testify, they may be interested in seeing proof such as veterinary records, receipt books, and testimony from other family members or friends regarding who takes the animal out for regular walks and who is primarily responsible for its day-to-day care.

Some Evidence to Help the Case for Primary Custody or Joint Custody:

Talk to a family law attorney before approaching your ex about the ownership and custody rights of your pet after divorce, but don't rule out trying to negotiate something with them.

Related Content: Common Mistakes to Avoid During a Divorce

If there is no agreement between you and your ex-spouse regarding who gets the pet, your lawyer may be able to get you the following types of evidence supporting your claim for legal ownership of the pet:

  • Showing proof of ownership for your pet.
  • A veterinary care or bill showing that you've taken your pet to the vet every time he has needed medical attention. (health care/emergency care)
  • You can use bill copies to prove that you bought most of the items for your pet.
  • If you've taken your dog anywhere where there were dogs present, whether it was a dog park, a dog obedience class, or a dog show, take some pictures of him/her at each location.
  • If you want to show off your new pet, take photos of yourself and your new pet together as well as any pictures you've shared online before the divorce was filed.
  • If you're going through a divorce, provide financial evidence that you'll take good of your pets if you get divorced.
  • If you're able to provide evidence that supports your claim that you will be able to take good care of your pet during your off hours, then you've got a strong case.

Contact Our Divorce Lawyers in Orland Park

At Tommalieh Law, there are experienced family law attorneys that will go through your pet ownership and divorce settlement, to find out the primary caretaker during this emotional time. Call (708)232-0017 for legal advice over pet custody issues and divorce laws with a family law attorney today.

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