New Illinois law covers pet ownership in divorces

Photo of Karen Lavin

It is undeniable that the fate of children is the most important part of a divorce between parents. This is also why arrangements for child custody, child support and decision-making ability about how a child is raised can be the most contentious part of a divorce.

A possible close second to this may be the disposition of pets for whom spouses shared responsibility during a marriage that is ending. While pets were formerly closer to livestock or other property in the considerations of Illinois divorce courts, a new law is altering that view.

The beginning of 2018 brought a new Illinois law that allows judges to consider the well-being of animals while assigning ownership to divorcing spouses. This moves pets closer to children in state divorce laws.

The law applies only to pets that are considered marital assets, not service animals assigned to one person for vital life needs. Pet custody cases have reportedly decreased in Illinois during the last three years, but judges now have greater guidance when a case arrives on their docket.

Joint ownership, similar to the joint custody of children, is now a more clear option for pets of a divorcing couple. For families that treat pets less as an asset and more as a member of the family, this is a positive development that may also help settlements be clearer.

Spouses with children, large assets and pets all deserve representation of their interests if they are sued for or suing for divorce. A lawyer can help simplify custody arrangements and make sure no claims are left unstated for Illinois divorce courts.

Source: Chicago Tribune, "New state law treats pets more like children in custody cases," Leonor Vivanco-Prengaman, accessed Jan. 23, 2018

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