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Lombard divorce pet ownership lawyerWhen getting a divorce, one of the major issues that must be resolved is how to divide marital assets. Many material possessions can easily be divided, or they may be sold, allowing divorcing spouses to split the proceeds, but some things have the same sentimental value to both parties. Family pets are often among the most hotly disputed “assets.” In fact, since many pets are treated like members of the family, disputes over their ownership can be similar to custody battles over children. When addressing these issues, divorcing couples should understand how the law applies to them.

Recent Changes to Illinois Law

In many states, pets are considered to be a part of marital property, subject to division between divorcing spouses. While this is also true in Illinois, on January 1, 2018, a new law went into effect that may affect pet custody cases. Under this law, a judge should consider a pet’s well-being before awarding ownership of the pet to either spouse. In some cases, this may make disputes over pet ownership similar to disputes over child custody, and couples may ask the judge in their case to make a decision about who should be granted “custody” of the pet.

How Custody is Determined

Even though the term “custody” is not used when referring to ownership of pets, decisions made by a judge in these cases may be somewhat similar to those made in disputes over child custody. A judge will base the decisions about pet ownership on their opinions regarding who can best provide for the animal’s well-being. Either spouse may be able to argue that they were the one who most often took care of the pet in regards to such tasks as grooming, walking, and feeding. They may also claim that they were the one who spent the most time with the pet. Either spouse may provide evidence to back up their claims, such as photos, testimony from friends or family members, or a statement from a veterinarian regarding who brought the pet in for appointments and followed the directions to care for the pet’s needs.

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