Between dividing assets and property, divorces can be highly contentious. What happens when a couple has a pet together? In Illinois, the law states that judges can consider the best interests of the pet when deciding pet custody. No longer do judges have to consider pets to be pieces of property but instead living family members that deserve to live life in their best interests.

An article in the ABA journal suggests that laws that allow judges consideration over what is in the best interest of the pet may lessen the chance of one spouse using the family pet as a pawn. In the past, a couple’s pet had the same treatment as an inanimate object or a piece of property. In reality, when a couple splits, the animal is as much of a part of the family and deciding custody may feel more akin to choosing the best home for a child, rather than splitting assets.

Many two-income households nowadays do not have children. Often, the responsibility and care that the couple puts into the family pet represents the family unit. What happens when that family unit disintegrates? How do you choose where the companion animal goes? In some cases, shared custody or joint ownership might be an idea for couples.

As the Chicago Tribune states, the state law allows for judges to consider a pet’s best interests and to allocate joint ownership or sole ownership. The law only applies to companion animals, rather than service animals. Service animals are not marital assets and belong solely to the patient.