Custody of Pets in Illinois

Illinois’ New Law on Custody of Pets

Effective January 1, 2018, pets will be treated more like the family members they are and not merely as property in divorces. Beginning this year, Illinois judges will no longer treat pets like property during a divorce, but will rather treat them as members of your family. Prior to 2018, a judge in Illinois would simply award one party the animal and possibly reimburse the other party for the value of the pet. Today, however, the new law is designed to treat our furry friends like family and not property. In a way, the animals are given the same considerations as children in a divorce. Pets are now another issue to be divided in divorce cases, along with spousal support, child custody, property division and debt allocation. Over the last decade or so, the issue of pet custody has become more common in divorce cases. This is particularly true when the parties do not have children.

Factors in Determining Pet “Custody”

Judges in Illinois are now to consider the “best interests” of the family pet when deciding who gets custody. Judges can even award joint custody to the “parents” of the animal. Some of the factors a judge is to consider are:

  • Who takes care of the pet? Who takes the pet for walks? Who buys the food and feeds the pet? Who takes the pet to the veterinarian for vaccinations and illness?
  • Has one party of the divorce bonded more with the pet? Does one party spend more time with the animal?
  • Will the pet be forced to move into a new home which could cause stress? Is the pet old and which could require special care as the animal ages?
  • Is shared custody or a visitation schedule possible?
  • Is one party asking for custody of the pet simply to hurt the other spouse?
  • Was the pet acquired prior to or during the marriage? If the pet was acquired by one spouse prior to the marriage, then the pet goes with the spouse who brought the pet into the marriage. If the pet was acquired during the marriage, thereby making the pet marital property, then the court would determine who should be awarded the pet based on a “best interests” standard.

The new statute [750 ILCS 5/503(n)] states as follows:

If the court finds that a companion animal of the parties is a marital asset, it shall allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal of the parties. In issuing an order under this subsection, the court shall take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal. As used in this Section, "companion animal" does not include a service animal as defined in Section 2.01c of the Humane Care for Animals Act. As you can see, service animals are not taken into consideration under the new law.
Protecting Your Rights and Your Pet’s Rights

If you are going through a divorce and you want to be awarded custody of your family pet, contact the attorneys at The Taradash Group, P.C. We have the experience and the skills necessary to help you achiever your goals. Call us at 312-775-1020 or click here to schedule a free consultation.