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As couples choose to have children later and later in life, and some couples choose not to have children at all, many spouses opt for pet ownership instead. Indeed, pets can feel as though they are a member of the family, and pet parents are often understandably worried about what will happen to their pet if they get divorced. Families with children may also be concerned about who will keep the family pet. Fortunately, Illinois updated the relevant divorce laws in 2018 to allow pets to be treated in a more nuanced way than a car or savings account.
Although pets are still technically considered property under the 2018 changes, Illinois judges may now consider the emotional and physical best interests of a pet when determining pet ownership in a divorce. Courts now consider each spouse’s ability to take care of the pet, and whether one spouse has been the pet’s primary caregiver during the marriage.
If both spouses want to share custody of the pet, a judge can order joint “pet custody.” But couples are encouraged to come to an optimal resolution themselves so they can agree about who will provide certain things for the pet and who will have the pet during specific times. Couples should also consider an arrangement that causes the pet the least amount of disruption, as judges can also take this into account.
These changes do not apply to service animals. Service animals can only be dogs, and can be any dog that has been individually trained to benefit someone with a disability of any kind. This sometimes includes emotional support dogs. Service dogs remain the exclusive property of the person who needs them.
The prospect of losing your pet in a divorce is unimaginable for many people. Fortunately, Illinois law provides divorcing couples with the ability to share custody of a pet. If you are getting divorced and are interested in sharing your pet with your ex, speak with an experienced DuPage County divorce attorney with Law Office of Martoccio & Martoccio. We have helped many couples create a mutually acceptable resolution for dealing with their pet. Call us today at 630-920-8855 to schedule your confidential consultation.