Can You Have Custody of the Family Pet in an Illinois Divorce?

Divorces are difficult. Sometimes the things that once brought a couple closer, and were the source of great happiness, can be the sources of bitter feelings and lasting resentment. More than half of all Illinois families have a pet, and a family pet can cause big problems in a divorce.

How the Law Views Pets

Even though pets are often just as much a part of the family as any human, there are no custody provisions for pets under Illinois law. Pets are considered personal property. Technically, a judge has the authority to award one party the sole ownership of the pet.

However, judges prefer that the parties work out an arrangement for themselves on who will get the pet. Fortunately, unlike a house or a car, there are several workable solutions that may allow both parties to continue to enjoy the companionship of the family pet.

How to Decide Who Should Get the Pet

Before spending a lot of time and money fighting over ownership of a pet, consider why you want the pet. Are you concerned about the pet’s well being, or are you using the pet to get back at your soon-to-be ex-spouse? Many problems can be avoided once you allow yourself to calm down and evaluate your motives. Factors to consider when deciding who should get the pet include the following:

  • What is in the best interest of the pet?
  • Are their children involved as well? Should the pet stay with the children?
  • Who is in the best place to care for the pet emotionally as well as physically?

Creative Solutions

When the parties to a divorce are creating their own agreement, they have a lot of freedom to craft creative solutions to difficult problems, such as pet ownership. Consider the following options:

  • Rotate who gets the pet every two weeks;
  • Establish visiting hours for the spouse who will not be living with the pet; and
  • Split the week so one party has the pet on weekdays and another on weekends.

If you work together to come up with a solution for the family pet, you will therefore create a situation that will be better for both spouses and the pet. You may also establish enough of a relationship to help you resolve the other difficult issues of the divorce.

If you are considering or are involved in a divorce or legal separation, you need advice from an experienced DuPage County family law lawyer. Call Sullivan Taylor, Gumina & Palmer, P.C. today at 630-665-7676 to schedule a consultation today.

Sources:

https://www.avma.org/news/pressroom/pages/TopBotomTenStatesForPets.aspx

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs4.asp?ActID=2086&ChapterID=59&SeqStart=6000000&SeqEnd=8300000