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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.

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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.

Terminology

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

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Posted on in Pet Custody

b2ap3_thumbnail_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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