Illinois’ divorce laws consider pets as family members; soon-to-be ex-spouses need to decide who takes them to a new home. If divorcing couples cannot agree on who their animals will live with, however, a family court judge may make that decision for them by considering their pets’ well-being.
As reported by the WQAD Digital Team, judges may review which spouse took care of the animals. Individuals may show, for example, how much they contributed to their pets’ care. This could include purchasing food for them or taking them outside for exercise. A judge may also consider who paid for the veterinary and grooming expenses.
Creating a shared pet custody agreement
Some couples may choose to share the custody of their pets. such as in the case of owning show animals or those with professional skills. A shared or joint custody arrangement, however, may require a carefully crafted written agreement.
According to The Nest, a shared pet custody agreement includes details on how two ex-spouses will divide the responsibilities of an animal’s care. Much like a child custody arrangement, a couple could write out a schedule for when each individual has visitation rights to a shared pet.
Avoiding pet custody battles
As noted by an American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers study of divorce attorneys, one-third of divorcing couples agreed to settle their pet custody issues outside of the courtroom. By negotiating a pet’s custody needs on their own, a couple may avoid a heated battle.
In some cases, a divorce in Illinois could become contentious when spouses find themselves forced to separate from their shared pets. A family court judge may then decide which spouse keeps a pet based on who can best care for it. A service animal, however, must remain with the individual who requires its support.