When you divorce, you have to split up parental responsibilities and your shared property with your ex. There is one aspect of your divorce where those two issues overlap, and that is when you have a pet or companion animal in your family.
For years, Illinois, along with the rest of the country, simply treated animals like property. No matter how much you cared for your pet, the judge would only consider their financial value in a divorce and would give them to one spouse or the other.
However, now, Illinois is one of a very few states in the country where you can potentially share custody of your pet with your ex-spouse after a divorce.
How should an Illinois family law judge handle your pet in a divorce?
When a judge has to make decisions about shared custody of children, they usually focus on the best interests of the kids. For a long time, the same standard did not apply to pets. Instead, the courts treated animals like property, regardless of how march the parents or children in the family may have cared for that animal. Thankfully, Illinois has changed that approach in recent years. Now, divorcing couples can ask a judge to consider the best interests of the dog or cat, just like they would consider the best interests of the children in the family in standard custody proceedings.
Depending on the needs of the animal, the judge made agree to allow you to share custody or even schedule visitation with an animal that you have grown to love. Understanding the nuances of Illinois law before you file for divorce can help you get the best possible outcome.