Illinois Pet Custody and Divorce

pet, Rolling Meadows divorce lawyerA beloved pet can become just like a family member. When a couple with pets gets divorced, there is often conflict and confusion as to who will get the pet. Until 2018, pets were treated just like any other piece of property under Illinois law. Fortunately, changes in Illinois divorce law have now taken into account the value of pets in peoples’ lives and the wellbeing of the pet in question. Read on to learn how “pet custody” is handled under Illinois law.

Pets Are Subject to Equitable Distribution Laws

Although you may consider your pet to be more like a family member, the law treats pets similarly to property like a car or house. Illinois distributes property according to a methodology called equitable distribution. Unlike states in which property is simply split in half with each party receiving 50 percent of the assets, Illinois distributes property according to what is equitable or fair. Depending on the financial and life circumstances of the divorcing parties, one spouse may receive a greater share of the marital estate than the other does. It is important to note, however, that only property which was acquired during the marriage, or marital property, is divided during divorce. Property which was obtained by a spouse before they got married is separate property and not subject to division.

Before the recent changes to Illinois law, pets acquired by a party before the marriage started were considered that party’s property. Pets acquired during the marriage would often be awarded to one spouse or the other. Now, it is much easier for divorcing couples to share responsibility and ownership of a pet.

Divorcing Couples Have an Option to Share Responsibility of Pets

Illinois law now states that if a pet is determined to be a marital asset, the court will “allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal of the parties… the court shall take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal.” This means that special consideration is given in situations in which one party is better equipped to care for the animal than the other is. Furthermore, divorcing couples with pets can now enter into a “pet custody” arrangement similar to a parenting time arrangement. It is important to note, however, that the new law only applies to pets part of the marital estate. Pets acquired by a party before the marriage will still remain with that party.

Contact a Rolling Meadows, Illinois Divorce Lawyer

If you are getting divorced, contact the Law Offices of Donald J. Cosley to speak with an experienced Schaumburg family law attorney. Call 847-253-3100 today to schedule your free consultation.



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