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What happens to your pet when you divorce?

If your pet is a beloved member of your family and you and your spouse will soon get an Illinois divorce, which of you gets custody of the pet? Believe it or not, if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse cannot agree on which of you the pet will live with after your divorce, the two of you can litigate this issue much like you would litigate a child custody issue.

The Chicago Tribune reported last year that under the new Illinois divorce law that took effect on the first day of January, 2018, your pet achieved the status of a very special kind of personal property.

Custody considerations

If your pet’s post-divorce custody becomes an issue in your divorce proceedings that the judge must decide, (s)he will need to take numerous factors into consideration, including the following ones:

  • Which of you bought or otherwise originally acquired the pet?
  • Which of you provided most of the pet’s care during your marriage?
  • Which of you will best tend to your pet's comfort and wellbeing after your divorce?
  • Which post-divorce household will best serve the pet’s health and welfare?

If both you and your spouse love your pet more or less equally and more or less equally provide for his or her feeding, exercise requirements, etc., you may wish to consider sharing “joint custody” of him or her. Such an arrangement, of course, rests on the amount of time each of you will have after the divorce to provide the care your pet needs, plus your respective inclinations to provide it.

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.

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