Many couples embrace their role as “pet parents” with the family dog or cat. However, the dynamic can be complicated when the pet parents decide to break up – especially after walking down the aisle.

What can couples do to prevent a messy divorce and keep their furry friend in their life? Couples could agree to draft a prenuptial agreement before getting married, which includes arrangements on pet custody. Or they may have to go through a division in time with the pet after divorce proceedings begin.

How does the court perceive man’s best friend?

While pet custody sounds similar to child custody, it’s not approached the same way in court. In some states, the courtroom often perceives animals as property instead of living creatures. It doesn’t factor the well-being of the dog nor any other conditions that may influence the animal’s life.

However, Illinois recently joined the ranks of California and Alaska where judges can take into account the best interests of the pets in determining its home. For example, if one of the owners often travels for their job, they should reconsider being the primary caregiver for the pet.

The court will usually recommend the owners to compromise on a custody agreement, whether one person takes care of the animal or both spouses share time with the pet. It will depend on each couple’s specific situation on how they should proceed.

The spouses should try to consider the needs of the animal and how they can each fulfill the pet’s best interests. Putting your furry friend first will ensure a smoother divorce proceeding and a better life for the animal.