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Who Gets Pet Custody in an Illinois Divorce?

In Illinois, nearly 52 percent of households have pets. If a couple divorces, the custody of the pet can be a heated issue. The parties may feel like the pet is a member of the family, but courts view pets as personal property. If you’re concerned about pet custody following divorce, consider the following:

Best interests of the pet

It is in the best interests of the pet to live with the party who can provide the highest level of care. If both parties love and cherish the pet, they may be able to decide this issue without the assistance of the court. For example, if one spouse travels for business and the other spouse works from home, it may be in the pet’s best interest to live with the latter. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Who can provide the best living arrangements for the pet?
  • Who can devote more time to the pet?
  • Does the pet have a strong emotional attachment to one party instead of the other?

Custody arrangements

Shared pet custody is not an issue that a judge will decide. If both parties want custody of a pet and are willing to compromise, they should arrange a shared custody schedule. If there is already a shared child custody arrangement in place, it may be useful for the pet custody to mirror this schedule. This also avoids the painful issue of children being separated from their beloved pets. A pet custody arrangement might also take the following forms:

  • Alternating weeks between each party
  • Weekdays with Party A and weekends with Party B
  • Even months with Party A and odd months with Party B

Settlement negotiations

Oftentimes, a pet custody dispute is not about the pet itself. It may be about spite, manipulation or control. It may even be a tactic to obtain another high-value property item in the divorce. In these circumstances, it’s important to let your divorce attorney know exactly how important it is for you to maintain custody of your pet. With skilled negotiation tactics, a divorce attorney can secure custody of your pet.

Property arguments

If the issue of pet custody cannot be decided between the parties, a judge decides the issue as if the dog or cat is an item of personal property. It’s important to demonstrate to the judge that you have a greater property interest in the pet than the other party. This can be shown in the following ways:

  • Receipt for the purchase or adoption of the pet
  • Receipts for vet bills
  • Receipts for pet food or medication

If you’re facing a custody dispute with regard to your pet, you need an experienced and compassionate North Shore divorce lawyer. Call our office today to schedule a consultation.

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Paul Chatzky
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About Born in Havana, Cuba, Paul Chatzky is fluent in Spanish and English, enabling him to effectively represent a wider range of individuals and businesses. He is AV® Preeminent™ Peer Review Rated by Martindale-Hubbell®, and is listed among Illinois Super Lawyers, which is a reflection of his high ethical standards and exceptional legal knowledge. As…

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Deborah E. Chatzky
Paralegal

About Prior to joining the firm as a paralegal, Debbie was employed by major banking institutions as a loan processor and as an executive secretary. Debbie was also employed as an administrative assistant for the Board of Jewish Education. Having majored in Sociology, Debbie graduated from the University of Florida in 1980. Debbie completed her…

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