What To Do With Your Pet During Divorce Instead of Bringing Them to a Shelter

What To Do With Your Pet During Divorce Instead of Bringing Them to a Shelter

In the midst of divorce, emotions can run very high. There are so many topics to discuss with a divorce lawyer in Bloomington, IL, such as dividing property, child custody, deciding who has to move out of the family home, how much the other spouse gets in a settlement, and more. One of the most sensitive topics is usually over who gets the family pet. Because divorce can be such a challenging time, some may consider surrendering their pet to a local shelter so they can start fresh with a new family. However, this is likely to only cause more heartbreak for all involved.

Here we discuss how the law views your pet, and what other choices you have aside from bringing them to a shelter.

How Pets are Viewed By Law

It may feel offensive to hear that this little furry pet that you consider a family member is actually deemed “community property” by law. How can a living, breathing thing that you care for so deeply be reduced to something that is like your couch or vehicle? Perhaps eventually the laws for pets and animals will catch up based on the times, but for now, your pet is viewed as property and not your child.

If you find yourself disputing who will take ownership of the pet between you or your spouse, you don’t have to bring the topic to court. You can negotiate with your spouse over mediation if that helps, or just discuss it between you two in a more casual environment. However, if you are unable to come to an agreement, then a judge can make that choice for you.

But remember, the judge is probably not going to consider any other variables except for who actually purchased the pet, spent money on veterinary bills, and who was responsible for providing pet supplies during the marriage. The judge is unlikely to ask you which person the pet would rather live with. 


Letting One Spouse Take The Pet
As difficult as it may be for the spouse who has to move on, letting one person take the pet instead of surrendering them to a shelter is likely to be in the best interest of your fur baby. Don’t be fooled into thinking that taking your pet to the shelter will be what provides them with the most stable future, as they may not be adopted into a new family that is as loving as you are.

Additionally, some shelters or animal organizations euthanize based on time or space. Knowing this is unlikely to provide you with any comfort, so ultimately letting your spouse take them may be the right choice even if it doesn’t feel great for you.


Splitting Custody of the Pet

Who says that you have to choose one or the other? Maybe you and your ex can come to an agreement that you will share custody, just as if they were a child that you had together. Perhaps one of you takes them for the week, while the other gets them for the weekend. Or, you can create a schedule that suits your needs. In this way, at least you will both have your furry family member in your life half the time, and it can alleviate some of the heartache from the divorce. 


Thanks to Pioletti, Pioletti & Nichols for their insight into family law and pets during divorce.