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Pets: A common point of contention in modern divorce

In a divorce, soon-to-be-ex-spouses commonly disagree over who gets what. Even if they initially agreed to end their marriage, it is common for couples to run into complicated disputes over all of the property they shared during the marriage.

Nowadays, family pets are at the center of many of these disputes.

Divorcing couples fighting over pets is more common than many believe

Of course, child custody is without a doubt one of the most contentious issues spouses face in their divorce. However, the custody of the family pet is now a close second.

According to Time, deciding who keeps the pets in a divorce is an increasingly common issue nationwide. Pet owners will completely understand the reason behind the increasing trend. After all, pets are considered to be like members of the family nowadays – not just mere animal companions.

This perspective is also why more and more spouses nowadays dispute over custody of their pets, and not simply ownership.

Illinois law allows pet custody

In the past, the law saw pets as property, just like the kitchen table or the armchair. Therefore, only one spouse could keep the pet, per the property division settlement agreement.

However, Illinois is one of the few states to have a pet custody law, established in 2018. This law means you no longer have to treat your pet as property and determine who keeps the pet. The law gives families – as well as family courts – leeway to arrange a sort of custody agreement that allows spouses to share time with their pets.

To determine the division of time with the pet, family courts will often consider issues such as:

  • How much time does each spouse spend with the pet?
  • Which spouse invested the most in the pet financially?
  • Which spouse is more responsible for the pet’s care?

Families and lawmakers alike believe this is more humane. However, it also helps ensure that both spouses can keep their furry friends in their lives even after a divorce.