Pet custody has long been a hot topic among individuals from a split household. Pets become more than just the property they have long been considered, after all, and become integral parts of our family. As of January 1st, 2018, a new law is working to change the way that pets are viewed and divided during the divorce process in Illinois.
Not Just Martial Property
While animals were considered to be marital property and were expected to be divided like all of the other assets during a divorce, animals are now being considered on a more individual basis. They are no longer passive property, in other words, but can now actually be considered as living beings with basic needs and emotional connections. Judges can now take those factors into account and actually award pet custody, or even joint ownership, during a divorce. If the couple in question are unable to determine who should take ownership of the pet in question, judges can now ask questions about the care of the animal and the relationship the animal has with each party before making a final determination.
With that said, the law has not changed that animals are, on a fundamental level, considered property. That means that, like other property, they can be marital or non-marital property and be divided amongst divorce parties accordingly. Questions like where the pet came from, whether it was a gift to one spouse or the other, and whether the pet belonged to one party before the relationship with their spouse even began can all still be used when determining with which party the pet should reside. If the pet was acquired during the marriage, in other words, then its best interests can be taken into account and the judge can decide where it should live. If it is non-marital property, then it goes with the person who is legally recognized as its owner, regardless of who actually cared for the animal on a daily basis.
If you are hoping to maintain custody of your pet, it is a good idea to reach out to an experienced attorney. At Abear Law Offices, we understand how emotional these situations can be. We can help. Contact us today for more information!