Photo of Karen Lavin

When Illinoisans get divorced, they have to sort through a swath of issues, some emotional, others legal. Many times the emotional and the legal merge. In some cases, that means fighting over child custody. But in other cases, it may mean deciding who gets to keep which friends, including man’s best friend, the family dog.

Take, for instance, a recent dispute between two Illinoisans over who gets to keep the couples’ Lab-German Shepherd Mix. Just like many child custody disputes, both Illinoisans want the dog. Unlike child custody, however, under Illinois law, pets are personal property.

The wife says she loves the dog and that she cannot see why possession of the dog is an issue. To her, the only explanation is that her husband is using the dispute to harass her. The husband counters that the dog is his buddy; that he walked the dog, slept with the dog; and that losing possession would mean he would never see the dog again, which he thinks is grossly unfair.

The dispute over the dog highlights what many Illinoisans who have gone through a divorce know: the process can take a long time. What is more, it is seldom easy for the divorcing couple to agree on how to divide property. Agreement is even harder when the property is a beloved pet. And agreement is far harder still when it involves child custody.

Fortunately, Illinoisans do not have to navigate these issues alone. They can get the help of an experienced family law attorney, someone who has experiences with the ups and downs of the divorce process, someone who can help reach an agreement that is good for the couple both now and in the future.

Source:, “Divorce: Who gets custody of the family pet?” Larry Yellen, July 22, 2014