Pet Custody: Who Gets the Dog in an Illinois Divorce?

Illinois divorce attorney, Illinois family lawyer, Illinois child custody lawyer, attorney fees,For most pet owners, their pets are a part of the family. When a couple gets divorced, one of the issues that may arise is who gets to keep the pet. Prior to 2018, the state of Illinois treated pets like any other piece of property–it was awarded to one of the spouses during the allocation of the couple’s other assets. A new law that was put into place at the beginning of 2018 allows a judge to decide which spouse is the best owner for the pet.

A Change in the Law

Before the beginning of the year, pets were considered an asset in a marital estate. Usually, the spouse that paid for the animal or had the best financial situation for the animal was allocated the pet in the divorce. This led to some animals losing the pet parent that loved them the most and sometimes a spouse would even fight over the pet out of spite and end up with an animal they did not care about.

The new law gives judges the ability to look at the situation and decide what is in the best interest of the pet’s wellbeing. This means that one spouse may end up with full ownership of the pet or both spouses could end up in a joint ownership situation, meaning the arrangement would function similar to a child custody arrangement and the time spent with the pet would be split between both spouses.

Deciding Factors

The only animals that the law does not apply to are service animals. Though service animals are companion animals, they provide their owner with assistance and it is important for the animal to stay with the spouse that needs them. For all other animals, judges will look at which spouse provides the necessary elements for the pet’s wellbeing. This can include the judge looking at who:

  • Has bonded with the animal;
  • Has taken the animal to the veterinarian;
  • Takes care of the pet’s day-to-day needs, such as walking or feeding;
  • Trained the animal; and
  • Has financially provided for the pet.

In addition, the judge can look at factors such as the age of the animal, whether there are other animals or children in the household that the pet has become accustomed to, and whether or not there are breed-specific rules in a different jurisdiction if a relocation is a possibility.

Contact a DuPage County Divorce Attorney

If you are a pet owner, you understand the emotional complexities that an animal has. Going into litigation over a pet can be nerve-racking, but with the help of a skilled Aurora divorce attorney, you can ensure that the judge will see that you are the best option for the pet. Contact the Law Office of Matthew M. Williams, P.C. to see how they can help you protect your most precious asset. Call 630-409-8184 to schedule a consultation.

 

Sources:

https://www.ilnews.org/news/justice/new-illinois-divorce-law-would-give-pet-custody-to-better/article_d51fc1c4-e0fb-11e7-b083-cb3fcf9279f8.html

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs5.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59

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