What Happens to Pets in a Divorce?

What Happens to Pets in a Divorce in Illinois? | Illinois Divorce Law for Pets

Video by Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Article written by Illinois Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty
Updated on
September 20, 2019

In this article, we will discuss what happens to pets in a divorce. We will cover Pet Custody in Illinois Divorce as well as answer “How is Pet Ownership Determined in Divorce in Illinois?” and “Can A Pet be Given Joint Custody in a Divorce in Illinois?”

Pet Custody in Illinois Divorce

Who has ownership of the pet is an increasingly common element of the divorce process.  Usually, the pets are treated as a piece of property and ownership of the property is determined similarly to other pieces of property.  However, you cannot exactly split a pet 50/50 and, for many divorcing couples, treating a living thing similarly to a piece of physical property like furniture or clothing feels cold and impersonally.  Debating “ownership” of a pet can also be very complex and emotional.  

How is Pet Ownership Determined in Divorce in Illinois?

As more and more couples adopt pets, some divorce laws have adopted to more directly address pet ownership. Illinois has recently updated their divorce law as of January 1st 2018 to better address the ownership and custody of pets in divorce proceedings.  According to updated law, judges can consider the physical and emotional  well-being of the pet when deciding ownership.  The animals are still legally considered property by the state, so property laws would still apply.  However this change opens up the possibility for several new and valuable points of discussion.  A spouses ability to take care of the pet such as walking them, grooming them and feeding them is now taken into account rather than simple ownership.

Can A Pet be Given Joint Custody in a Divorce in Illinois?

Under the new Illinois law, a judge can grant a couple joint custody over a pet in a divorce proceeding.  If it is determined that each of the owners would like to share ownership of the pet and that they could both afford to care for it properly, a judge may decide that joint custody is the best option.  How this custody is determined would not be unlike shared custody of children, with each member of the couple agreeing to time with the pet as well as who provides what for them.

For more questions regarding divorce in Illinois, you can visit our article "Illinois Divorce FAQ's" or go to Learn-About-Law.com for all of our legal articles.

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