Who keeps the dog when you divorce?

A divorce is a painful and complicated process, bringing both financial and emotional stress. Couples face a number of contentious issues such as child custody and property division when they’re separating. And not surprisingly, one of the more common heated issues in divorce is who gets to keep the dog or cat.

Families have long considered their pets to be an extended part of the family and people have strong bonds with their animals. That means deciding where the pet will live causes quite a bit of friction and emotion.

Factors considered

Not all states recognize pets during divorce proceedings but thankfully, Illinois does. A law passed in early 2018 recognizes the importance of pets in a divorce decision. If a couple isn’t able to decide pet custody on their own, a court can consider a number of factors toward a decision on their behalf:

  • Which party is better suited to care for the animal.
  • Which of the spouses was responsible for buying the food and supplies.
  • Who arranged for the veterinary care or grooming for the pet.
  • The bonds a pet has with its owners.
  • The effect a separation might have on other members of the household.

Much like child custody, a judge could grant sole custody to one party or joint custody to both.


Knowing your pet’s well-being is considered as part of your decision can give you peace of mind in an otherwise stressful and emotional time.