Your pet might be just as important to you as any human child. But a couple’s love for their pet can cause serious conflict when they decide to divorce.

Millions of American households have pets, and a good number of those pets are dogs. Deciding who gets to keep the pet in a divorce can be especially difficult when the animal in question is a dog. It’s easy to form a close bond with dogs, so it can be extremely upsetting to separate from your beloved furry friend.

Pets as property

The law in most states views pets as property. This means that pets fall in the same category as your house, cars and furniture. Whoever has rightful ownership of your pet will most likely get the animal. Under a recent law, however, courts in Illinois will now treat your pet more like a child.

Seeking pet custody

While many couples don’t need to take each other to court over who will get the pet, pet custody battles are not unheard of. If you and your ex both want to keep your pet, a judge will often consider the best interests of the animal. To make their decision, a judge will assess which party does the majority of the following:

  • Pays for the vet bills
  • Takes the pet to get groomed
  • Spends the most time with the pet
  • Takes the pet on walks
  • Buys food and toys
  • Has the means to continue taking care of the pet going forward

A judge might also consider who the pet belonged to before the relationship began, if applicable. Also important is who has the most space to accommodate the pet or who bought or adopted the pet during the relationship.

Why is pet custody important?

Experiencing separation from your pet only adds to the overall emotional toll of a divorce. But divorce is also hard on pets. In fact, studies have shown that dogs can feel the effect of divorce. However, there are ways to keep both parties and your pet happy. Just as with child custody cases, a court may solve pet custody conflicts by awarding joint ownership to you and your ex.

Getting a divorce is hard. When you may have to part ways with a beloved pet, it can be even harder. Thanks to recent Illinois lawmaking, maintaining ownership of your pet after your divorce doesn’t have to be upsetting for you or your pet.