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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.


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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family pet custody, Humane Care for Animals Act, Kane County divorce attorney, pet custody, pet ownership rightsWhile custody battles are typically associated with fights over who gets the children, the reality is that fights over who gets the family pet can be equally contentious. More than half of Illinois households have a pet, and many of those households likely view their pet as a member of the family. This can create problems when a pet-owning couple divorces.

Illinois law traditionally treats animals as personal property. In a divorce proceeding, the general rule is that the family pet will be awarded to one party or the other. There is no provision for joint ownership. Illinois is an equitable division state, meaning that property will be apportioned fairly but not necessarily equally. Of course, what is fair financially might not be fair emotionally. Some judges recognize this and choose to treat pet custody issues similarly to child custody issues.

There are no specific guidelines for awarding pet custody, but the court could consider factors comparable to the best interests standard. As with children, the court might determine custody based on what is in the best interests of the animal. For example, if one party owned the pet before the marriage, he or she might maintain custody after the marriage. However, there are additional factors the court could consider, including:

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Divorce is a complicated process, with many important decisions to be made. One of the most convoluted parts of divorce is property division. For many families, pets are more than just property; they are members of the family. However, in the eyes of Illinois law, they are treated simply as property.

According to the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, pet custody cases are on the rise in the United States. Surveys say that more than 60 percent of American homes have pets. Pet ownership and maintenance is a rising field of business, as displayed with the increase in insurance for animals, fancy salons, and even pet attire. When breakups and divorce occurs, the destiny of pets can turn into a real dogfight.

pet custody in divorce IMAGEIllinois Property Division

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