If you and your spouse contemplate getting a divorce and you love your pet almost as much as your children, you will be happy to know that Illinois divorce law now provides for your pet much better than it did in the past. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, under the new divorce law that went into effect last year, you and your about-to-be ex-spouse can litigate the issue of pet custody and visitation if you cannot agree on where your pet will live after the two of you divorce.

While the new law still considers your pet as property, pets have now achieved the status of a special form of personal property, one that lives, breathes and requires the proper care for its wellbeing and comfort.

Pet custody factors

If you and your spouse litigate the issue of pet custody during your divorce, the judge will take many factors into consideration before reaching his or her decision, including the following:

  • What custody arrangement serves the best interests of your pet?
  • Who originally bought your pet or otherwise acquired it?
  • Who provided the majority of your pet’s care and maintenance during your marriage?
  • Which of you has the most time and inclination to care for your pet post-divorce?
  • What, if any, visitation should the noncustodial pet parent get?

Although considerations such as the above may seem “over the top” to those who do not own and love pets, Illinois law now recognizes that many people do, in fact, view their pets as four-footed children who need just as much love and attention as any other child. While the matter of your pet’s post-divorce custody should be something that both you and your spouse come to an agreement on by yourselves, rest assured that if you fail to do so, a judge will make the decision for you.

You should not take this information as legal advice, but it can help you understand the pet provisions of Illinois’s divorce law and what to expect if you have to litigate your pet’s post-divorce custody.