Who gets the pet in a divorce?

On behalf of Stange Law Firm, PC posted in Child Custody on Thursday, January 4, 2018.

Illinois couples who own a pet and are facing divorce might find themselves seeking custody of the pet. In the past, disputes over pets were becoming more common in divorces that ended up in court; however, more recently, pet owners are negotiating who gets custody of the pet outside of court.

Traditionally, pets were treated as property to be divided during negotiations. However, Illinois has a law that allows judges to decide who gets custody of a pet during a divorce. To make this decision, the judge can consider who put in more effort with the pet, such as who bought the food and fed the pet, who cleaned its environment, who exercised it or who kept up with the pet’s vaccinations and health checks. This also means that joint custody of a pet might be a possible outcome. Basically, pets are no longer treated as things; instead, they have been elevated to the family members in the eyes of the law, so the decision over custody would be made in the best interest of the pet, not just on its value and the desires of the owners.

The pet most couples fight about in a divorce is the dog with 96 percent of cases focusing on canines. Two other animals come at a distant second: cats and horses. While the law applies to most animals kept as pets, it does not apply to service animals because these would go with the spouse who has the animal assigned to assist them.

Pet custody is part of the regular divorce negotiations. For someone who is undertaking a divorce, the assistance of a family law lawyer might be beneficial. The lawyer may guide the person through the different aspects of divorce and represent the person in negotiations.

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