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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:

  • Pets are called companion animals, showing that they were obtained for recreational purposes;
  • Service animals are differentiated from companion animals because one party needs the animal to function;
  • Similar to laws regarding children and divorce, pet custody is called allocating ownership of and responsibility for companion animals;
  • Companion animals that are marital properties are jointly owned by the spouses, unless the parties agree otherwise; and
  • Spouses are described as having sole or joint possession of a companion animal after a divorce.

Ownership Agreement

The possession of companion animals is an issue that divorcing spouses may need to agree to separately from dividing marital property. The law specifically mentions that:

  • Spouses filing a joint petition for simplified dissolution of their marriage must include a written agreement allocating ownership of and responsibility for companion animals; and
  • Divorcing spouses may request a temporary allocation of companion animal possession while divorce negotiations are ongoing.

Court Decisions

When a companion animal is marital property, the divorce court has the right to allocate ownership of and responsibility for the animal. The court will decide which spouse will be a better owner, based on factors such as:

  • The financial resources of the spouses;
  • The living conditions for the animal;
  • Which spouse has taken more responsibility for caring for the animal;
  • Which spouse will be able to spend more time with the animal;
  • The emotional attachment of each owner or their children; and
  • Any history of abuse or neglect.

More Than Property

Pets need to be treated differently than inanimate objects that are used as bargaining chips during divorce negotiations. They are living beings that require attention, care and affection. Spouses may not be equally adept at being pet owners after a divorce. A Kane County divorce attorney at Goostree Law Group will make sure that your pet goes to the most appropriate owner after your divorce. To schedule a free consultation, call 630-584-4800.



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