If your pet is a valued member of your Illinois household but you and your spouse are thinking about divorcing, you likely have concerns about which of you your pet will live with after your divorce. While admittedly not as important as the custody of your children, still, custody of your pet can raise a fair amount of added stress to your divorce. 

The good news, as reported by the Chicago Tribune, is that Illinois passed a new divorce law a couple of years ago that makes pet custody one of the things that you and your spouse can litigate as part of your divorce if you cannot privately agree on who gets the pet. 

Pets as special personal property 

The new Illinois law defines pets as a special class of personal property that you and your spouse must equitably divide during your divorce. But whose equity does the judge consider? 

As with custody of your children, the judge’s overriding concern will be the best interests of your pet. In fact, if you need to litigate this issue, the judge will consider many of the same factors as (s)he would if you were litigating custody of your children. Some of the many factors the judge will consider include the following: 

  • Which of you originally acquired your family pet? 
  • Which of you has been responsible for the majority of your pet’s care during your marriage? 
  • Which of you will provide the best environment for your pet after the divorce? 
  • Which of you will have the most inclination and time to care for your pet after the divorce? 
  • What amount of visitation, and under what circumstances, should the noncustodial pet parent receive? 

This is general educational information and not intended to provide legal advice.