As you approach your Illinois divorce, your biggest concern likely is the custody of your children. But if you love your dog or cat nearly as much as you love your kids, you likely also have concerns about where your pet will live after your divorce. Can you actually ask for custody of him or her? 

Surprisingly, the answer is yes. As the Chicago Tribune reported, Illinois has a unique law that treats family pets more like children during a divorce. While legally your pet fits into the category of personal property, Illinois considers pets as a very special subcategory of personal property, one composed of living, breathing entities whose comfort and welfare bear consideration when the pet parents divorce. 

Pet custody factors 

As with your children, if you and your soon-to-be ex-spouse cannot agree as to which of you will retain custody of your pet after the divorce, the court will consider numerous factors when determining pet custody for you. And as with your kids, the court’s main focus will be the best interests of your pet. Consequently, you will need to present clear and convincing evidence to answer the following questions: 

  • Did you or your spouse originally buy or otherwise acquire the pet? 
  • Do you or your spouse provide most of your pet’s daily care, such as feeding, grooming, exercise, etc.? 
  • Do you or your spouse take your pet to his or her veterinarian and grooming appointments? 
  • Which of you has the most likelihood of continuing to provide your pet with a happy and healthy environment after the divorce? 

Believe it or not, the court can even decide if, when, and under what circumstances the noncustodial pet parent should receive visitation. While all of this may sound nonsensical to some, if you are one of Illinois’ thousands of pet parents who consider your dog and cat a full member of the family, you will be glad to know that Illinois divorce courts are on your side. 

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