For many people, pets are considered part of one’s family. When couples divorce, determining who keeps the family pet can be a contentious and emotionally draining issue. It’s not uncommon for issues related to “pet custody” to play out in Illinois courts.
If you’re wondering how to get custody of your four-legged companions, there are provisions that can be integrated into marital settlement agreements or ordered by the court. Diamond Divorce Law, located here in McHenry, is here to answer all of your questions.
Understanding Pet Custody In Illinois
Until relatively recently, in the eyes of the law, pets were considered property in Illinois. While you may not see your dog, cat, or ferret as equal to a set of fine China or bedroom furniture, the law does.
Even though pets were considered property under the law, agreements or court orders were able to provide for provisions similar to what we now have in parenting plans for children.
These provisions can provide for determinations as to which party can best care for the pet and with whom the pet has a stronger bond. The party seeking the custody of a pet may need to demonstrate the ability to provide a loving environment and pay for its food and veterinary care.
Joint ownership of pets may involve numerous issues similar to those relating to parenting plans for children. If divorcing parties can agree in writing to divide pet ownership and responsibilities, it is possible for Illinois divorcees to share custody of a companion animal.
When disagreements arise or circumstances change, the courts might step in to allocate ownership or possession to one party.
Pet custody does not involve animals acquired before the marriage. For example, if a wife had a pet before the marriage, it remains the property of the wife after a divorce.
Updated Pet Welfare Legislation in Illinois
In 2018, a new Illinois law became effective that permitted a judge overseeing divorce proceedings to consider an animal’s welfare and best interest. Since most pet owners will establish an incredibly close bond with their animals, this law helps to prevent beloved bets from being treated as simply community property, as they had been in the past.
This law only applies to companion animals that are considered community marital assets. The law does not apply to animals that are considered companions or support animals.
The judge may also consider the Illinois Domestic Violence Act in their deliberations, and can grant sole custody of an animal to one partner under certain circumstances. These situations often include one party showing proof or substantial evidence that the other party may be a danger to the animal.
Getting Custody Of A Companion Animal
If you’re hoping to get custody of a pet after a divorce, it is wise to bring this up with your family law attorney. An attorney may need photographs of you and your pet, veterinary bills, and written statements attesting to your unique bond with your companion animal when arguing your case in court.
It might also be possible to bargain for custody of your pet by giving up another marital asset your former spouse wants. If both parties seek joint ownership of pets, be sure to discuss this with your divorce attorney.
Contact Diamond Divorce Today
Divorces are complicated legal matters. Finding a compassionate attorney who will protect your interests can make moving on with your life that much easier. Our attorneys at Diamond Divorce Law understand the emotional turmoil and legal complexities that accompany divorces.
We work tirelessly to find fair and equitable solutions for our clients. If you have questions about your divorce, call our practice at (815) 385-6840 to set up a consultation with one of our experienced attorneys.