It may surprise you to learn that family pets are essentially treated like a sports car or summer home when it comes to divorces. Companion animals are legally considered to be the property of their owners. As a result, state property division rules apply to cases where a family pet is caught between a divorcing couple. This article delves into the new legal rules regarding pet ownership in Illinois divorce cases.
Illinois Law on Pet Ownership Rights
Illinois law provides that “If the court finds that a companion animal of the parties is a marital asset, it shall allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal of the parties.” Thus, Illinois courts have the authority to determine custody issues of a family pet, similar to how custody over a minor child works.
Furthermore, “the court shall take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal.” As a result, Illinois courts are required to factor the best interests of a family pet in determining custody of a family pet in a divorce.
Factors Regarding the Best Interests of Pets
When Illinois courts make custody determinations regarding minor children of the divorcing couple, they are required to evaluate the best interests of the child. In the context of pet custody, Illinois courts must undertake a similar inquiry.
Factors that a court might consider when assessing the best interests of a family pet include:
- The pet’s environment
- Whether minor children are part of the family
- The sentimental value of the pet to the parties
- A party’s involvement in the pet’s adoption
- Who paid for pet care and veterinary appointments
Implications of Pet Visitation
Similar to child visitation arrangements, pet visitation situations require the couple to maintain effective communication with each other. Like small children, many pets require constant supervision. Therefore, the parties must properly coordinate their schedules in order to make a pet visitation arrangement meaningful. Furthermore, responsibilities for food, veterinary appointments, grooming, and other costs incidental to pet ownership must be shared and distributed between the spouses.
Contact a Qualified Attorney About Pet Custody Today
For many families, a pet is more than just an item of property to be listed on a legal form inventorying a person’s individual assets. People often view pets as members of the family. If you need legal assistance regarding a dispute over a family pet in your divorce case, you should consult an experienced attorney who understands Illinois law regarding the treatment of companion animals in a divorce proceeding. At The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C., our legal team – under the guidance of a skilled attorney, Jonathan Merel – is dedicated to making sure your right to maintain that special bonding between you and your pet is protected.Contact The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel, P.C. at (312) 487-2795 to consult with one of our skilled family lawyers regarding your legal rights and options today.