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Who Will Get Our Dog in an Illinois Divorce?

Posted on in Pet Custody

St. Charles Divorce LawyerWhile a lot of people are aware of the most common topics that generally need to be divided up in a divorce - child custody; alimony/spousal support; division of property, assets, and debts - there are some divorce issues that people are less aware of. You might be surprised to know, for example, that what happens to a family pet in divorce is an entire topic of its own.

Some people might consider pets property since they are animals and not humans. But in many cases, families consider their pet a member of the family. This can make it harder to consider a pet an item that needs to be distributed. If you are considering divorce but find yourself worried it could mean the end of your relationship with your beloved pet, an experienced Kane County, IL divorce lawyer can help you navigate the process and advocate for your rights and interests.

How Do We Decide Who Gets Our Pet if We Both Love Her?

When a couple gets divorced, it can be extremely complicated trying to decide where their shared pet will live. For the courts to be able to decide this, both spouses will need to gather and present evidence that supports their claims. In this way, decisions about a pet are no different from decisions about any other aspect of divorce

IL divorce lawyerOn average, people are putting off getting married and having children until their late twenties and early thirties. In addition to giving people more time to accumulate assets of their own, those who wait until later to get married may be more likely to have pets when they enter the relationship. Other times, a couple who is already married might test their ability to keep a helpless creature alive by getting a pet before they commit to trying to have a baby.

However you come to pet ownership, one thing is certain: If you and your spouse end up getting divorced, you do not want your divorce to impact your ability to spend time with your beloved pet. Savvy couples are finding ways to protect their pets from divorce by signing a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement that details pet custody after divorce. How can a prenup or postnup manage a pet? Read on to find out, and then contact an Illinois family lawyer who can help you create an enforceable premarital agreement of your own.

Can Prenuptial Agreements Address Pets?

One of the hard and fast rules about premarital and postmarital agreements is that they cannot manage issues of custody or child support when it comes to human children. So how could they do the same for pets?

What Will Happen to My Pet in My Illinois Divorce?

Posted on in Pet Custody

St. Charles divorce pet custody attorneyWhen determining parenting arrangements for children during divorce, there are rules that help determine a child’s future based on his or her well-being. Divorcing couples will also need to determine how to divide their property and assets. However, what happens when the property shared between a couple is a living thing? For many years, Illinois law treated pets as property, similar to a television or furniture, but the law was recently changed, and additional considerations now apply to pets during a divorce. 

What Has Changed?

In 2018, an amendment to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (750 ILCS 5) regarding the treatment of pets during a divorce was put into effect. Deciding on the “custody” of pets is now handled in a manner that is closer to that of children than it once was. While pets are still considered property, the new law states that when making decisions about ownership of pets—referred to as companion animals in the law—a judge should consider the animal’s well-being. This law, however, does not apply to service animals. A service animal is defined as an animal that is specially trained to benefit a person with a disability, such as a guide dog for a blind person or a seizure response dog that specializes in aiding a person with a seizure disorder. These animals are likely to stay with the person whom they are trained to serve.

When parental responsibilities, or child custody, are determined by the court, the health and safety of the child are put first. While a similar consideration now applies to family pets, the animal’s well-being is just part of the overall equation rather than the top priority. If one party takes better care of the animal, or the other is in an unstable living environment, the pet can be placed with the spouse who will better provide for the animal’s well-being. The party who purchased the pet or regularly took care of the pet may also be taken into consideration.

New Pet Custody Law Goes Into Effect in 2018

Posted on in Pet Custody

New Pet Custody Law Goes Into Effect in 2018Determining pet custody is complicated in a divorce because it involves aspects of the division of marital property and traditional custody concerns. Illinois’ divorce laws define pets as property, which can be marital or non-marital depending on when ownership started. However, most owners think of their pets in a way that is similar to children. A new Illinois law, going into effect at the start of 2018, changes how pet ownership is treated in a divorce to more closely align with how many owners think of them. Pets are a responsibility that can be shared between divorcing spouses, instead of merely a property that one party gets to keep.


The law introduces terms that are important to understanding the nature of pet custody during a divorce:

Determining Pet Custody during Divorce

Posted on in Pet Custody

pet-custody.jpgFor thousands couples throughout the United States, pets are members of the family. For these couples, the pet's custody can be a prominent issue during their divorce.

In Illinois, pets are considered to be personal property. This means that they are divided among divorcing couples in the same way that property such as cars, household decor, and recreational items are divided – according to their monetary value. In Illinois, each partner receives a portion of the couple's shared property according to his or her contribution to the marriage's shared property value and his or her economic needs following the divorce. This is known as equitable distribution and is outlined in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. If one spouse owned the pet before the marriage began, the pet may be considered to be singly-held property and thus not subject to property division rules.

If you have an amicable relationship with your former spouse, the best option for you is to work out a pet custody plan among yourselves. Determine which household is better suited to keep the animal – maybe only one of you has adequate yard space for a dog, or one of you lives in an apartment that does not allow pets. Another solution might be to take turns caring for the pet or keep the pet on the same custody schedule as your child, having the pet go to each household during the parent's scheduled custodial time. In some cases, the custodial parent is also awarded custody of the family pet.

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