Determining Custody of Pets During Divorce

If you have a pet and are getting a divorce, one of the questions you may have is who will get custody of the pet once the divorce has been completed. This can be an especially contentious question as you, like many other modern pet owners, may regard your pet as more like a member of your family than a possession.

Chicago divorce lawyer Van A. Schwab understands how important your pets are to you. His divorce and family law firm, The Law Offices of Van A. Schwab, is committed to helping clients achieve satisfactory results in all matters of the division of marital assets, including the custody of pets.

Pets and Divorce Under Illinois Law

Although you may have an emotional attachment to your pet, Illinois divorce law considers pets as personal property. As a result, the court will decide which spouse gets custody of the pet, based on the equitable property division laws in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. In cases where there is a dispute about the custody of the pet, you may be able to improve your chances of being awarded custody by:

  • Showing your financial interest in the pet by providing receipts for food, veterinary costs, and other pet-related bills.

  • Demonstrating that your home is better equipped for the pet than your former spouse’s. This may be because your former spouse’s new home does not allow pets or has a yard that is of insufficient size for the pet.

  • Proving your emotional bond with the pet through the testimony of friends, family, or neighbors.

Although you may regard your pet as your child, Illinois courts do not have the same power to award visitation time or institute a “parenting plan” (or similar arrangement) with pets as they do with children.

Determining What Is Best for Your Pets

Since leaving the decision of pet custody up to the courts may not always lead to the desired result, it is important for divorcing couples to consider deciding this matter themselves in a pet custody agreement. In this type of agreement, couples can be as free and creative as they want in formulating a plan specifying how they will handle their pets’ ownership, care, and visitation after the divorce has been finalized.

If you are considering divorce and are worried about what will happen to your pet, you need the advice of an experienced property division attorney to present a convincing case to your ex-spouse and the court. Contact The Law Offices of Van A. Schwab or by sending an email.