Animals historically have been treated like personal property in divorce proceedings. Previously, pet owners had no guarantee that a judge might understand the unique relationship between pet and pet parent and treat an animal more like a child and less like a couch.
Such uncertainty was upsetting for many, as dogs are an intrinsic part of the household. Dogs are often treated like children in marriages. For married couples, dogs can sometimes act as the children in the relationship. Naturally, both people develop a bond with the pet that can be painful to relinquish if the marriage dissolves. Today, the treatment of pets in court during a divorce reflects that bond.
Illinois is one of just a few states with laws that acknowledge companion animals as something more than property. If you are a pet owner divorcing in Illinois, you can expect judges to decide matters related to custody visitation and an animal’s well-being if the case goes to court.
That can come as a great relief to pet parents who cannot come to an agreement on where an animal will live and who will be financially responsible for expenses like veterinary visits, medication and food.
It is still preferable to resolve pet custody issues in mediation or negotiations between the parties. As is the case with any matter in a divorce, resolving it yourselves outside of court allows parties to retain more control over the outcome. No one knows more about your situation than you, and you and your ex could be in the best position to make decisions that are mutually agreeable and appropriate for your circumstances.
Please be aware that whether you decide pet issues between the parties, with the help of attorneys and mediation or by the Court’s decision, there now is a statute that gives your pet some standing in the case. Understanding this could make a difficult process just a little easier.
None of the above is to be interpreted as legal advice. It is for informational purposes only.