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Who gets the dog? Pet custody in Illinois divorces

You know that your fur baby is part of the family, but judges in Illinois have long approached the question of who will get the pet in the divorce as a property division matter. If you are planning a divorce, or you are already in the middle of one, you may be relieved to know that a new state law treats your pet the same way you do: as part of the family.

According to the Illinois News Network, the value of the animal is not the primary concern for judges when determining whether you or your spouse will get to keep your pet. Unless it is a service animal, a judge may determine "custody" based on the best interests of the pet. This includes asking some of the same types of questions a child custody judge may ask:

  • Who takes the pet to health care appointments?
  • Who takes care of the day-to-day needs of the pet?
  • Who is the pet emotionally bonded to?

The outcome does not have to be either you or your spouse keeping the pet; joint custody is an option. 

With these factors in mind, you and your spouse may be able to come to a workable agreement at the negotiation table. If not, you will have the opportunity in court to present the reasons you believe the pet should live primarily or solely with you. This information is general in nature and may not address elements specific to your case; therefore, it should not be interpreted as legal advice.

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