Over the past few decades, the pet's role in the family has dramatically evolved. Dogs lives have gone from a chain in the backyard to organic diets and high-end doggy daycare. Likewise, the pet cat's role has elevated from family pest killer to the star of the internet. With these changes came our changing perspective of pets as individuals, rather than property.
But legally, pets are still considered to be personal property and are divided as such during a divorce. Illinois courts do not recognize pet custody agreements in the way that they recognize child custody agreements and instead consider pets to be the same as other property outlined in Part V of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
However, you and your partner might want to consider creating your own pet custody schedule outside of court. Talk to your attorney about ways to model your pet custody agreement if this is an option for you. Otherwise, you will need to prove that your home is better suited for the pet than your former spouse's home.
Pets as Property
If your spouse will not agree to work out a pet custody schedule with you, you will need to demonstrate that you are the best fit for your pet. Illinois is an equitable distribution state, which means that marital property isn't necessarily divided 50/50 between divorcing couples. Instead, the court awards property to each partner depending on his or her need and contribution to the marital property.
To prove your contribution to your pet, you will need to show the investment you made in its care. You can do this by keeping a record of all veterinary bills, adoption or purchase records, and other pet-related expenses to show your contribution to the pet's life. Along with this, you may need to demonstrate that your home is the best fit for your pet.
Pet Custody Arrangements
If you and your spouse can amicably work out a custody arrangement, this could be a viable option. If you and your partner have children, you can easily use the same custody model for your pet that you have in place for your children.
Talk to your attorney about this option if you feel it might be right for you. Although your attorney cannot do anything to legally protect a pet custody schedule, he or she might have dealt with this type of issue before and be able to suggest a viable arrangement based on previous cases.
Divorce Attorneys in DuPage County
If you are considering a divorce and anticipate issues with child custody or dividing the marital estate, contact an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney today to find out what your legal options are.