Divorcing a spouse can be both challenging and stressful. After all, when you call it quits, you must face a new way of life. Fortunately, if you have no children, you do not have to worry about tackling a potentially bitter custody dispute. Your dog or cat may change that.

In Illinois, judges divide marital property according to what is equitable. Therefore, while you may not necessarily receive exactly 50% of marital assets, you should get a fair share. If both you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse love your pet, though, you may have a potential battle on your hands.

Pets are property 

In simplistic terms, Illinois law treats pets as property. Just as with marital cash, furniture or anything else, you and your spouse must decide who keeps the pet. If you cannot come to an agreement, a judge is apt to decide for you. Still, pets are living, breathing creatures that form deep attachments with their human owners, who love them in return. Accordingly, dogs and cats are often a point of contention in divorce negotiations.

Pets may be kind of like children 

A few states have begun to look at pets differently for divorce purposes. While still technically categorizing pets as property, these states have encouraged judges to consider the overall well-being of pets when dissolving marriages. Illinois follows this approach.

A custody agreement may be necessary

In Illinois, judges may award joint ownership to both spouses following a divorce. When deciding whether to take this approach, a judge considers a variety of factors. He or she may also assign rights and responsibilities to each party. As such, you may need something that looks like a custody agreement that spells out expectations.

If you are putting off your divorce out of fear of losing your pet, you may have some options. If you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse can agree on joint custody, you may not have to say goodbye to your dog or cat forever.