For couples who have decided to get a divorce, one issue that may catch them unprepared is how to deal with the family pet, if they have one. In some cases, a pet may be beloved by both spouses, and neither one can imagine life without it. The law, of course, provides guidelines on how to deal with issues involving children of divorcing parents, and decisions about the allocation of parental responsibility and parenting time are made based on what is in children’s best interests. However, pets are often a different story.
Changes to the Laws on Pet Ownership After Divorce
While divorce has been around for a long time, new and increasingly complex issues often arise in divorce cases. As a result, legislatures must pass new laws to address or respond to these new issues. Illinois is no exception, and one area the legislature has recently addressed is pet ownership after divorce.
In the past, pets were treated as property, and therefore, their ownership was determined in the same manner as all other marital property. However, there is no rational way to split ownership of a pet based on a percentage, neither is it humane to treat a pet the same as a piece of furniture. When factoring in the emotional nature of decisions related to family pets, the need for the legislature to act on these matters becomes evident.
What Judges May Consider When Deciding Pet Ownership
According to the updated law, judges in Illinois divorce cases are now required to consider the well-being of the pet when deciding ownership. However, pets are still legally considered to be property, so the laws regarding the division of marital property will still apply in determining who gets the pet. What the law now brings into the equation is deciding which of the two spouses will give the pet better care—something that was not a factor before.
How About Joint Custody of Pets?
Joint “custody” of a pet is possible under the new Illinois law. If a couple demonstrates that they are both capable of taking care of the pet, and if they can afford to and wish to continue to share the pet, then a judge may decide that joint ownership of the pet is the best option. In these cases, the couple may create a schedule of when the pet will stay in each home, and they may wish to specify how they will divide costs related to the pet, such as vet bills.
Contact a Wheaton Marital Property Division Lawyer
If you have a pet and are determined to keep it after divorcing in Illinois, we are here to give you guidance on how to resolve this and other disputes. Find out how a knowledgeable DuPage County divorce attorney can help you achieve your objectives during your divorce by calling our office today at 630-871-1002 to arrange a free consultation.