Determining pet custody in a divorce

In recent years, Illinois has passed a new law that helps divorcing couples decide who should get the family pet. In the past, the court viewed pets as any other marital property, such as a car or house. Today, pets have a status akin to children in the state, and one spouse will typically gain "custody" of the animal.

It can be tough to let go of the family pet, but it is vital for both spouses to come together to reach some kind of consensus. Ultimately, both parties should work together in the best interest of the dog or cat so the pet ends up with a good life no matter where it ends up. 

Reach a decision outside the courtroom

While you can certainly take this matter in front of a judge, most couples would agree that it is best to decide outside of court. Before heading to trial, you and your spouse should go through mediation. This is a process wherein you meet with a third-party mediator to go over certain items. You decide how to divide certain assets, which saves you time and money in the courtroom. This is an excellent opportunity to discuss who will get the pet. You should both be able to tell who spends most of the time with the animal and who takes care of it the most. 

Prove you take care of the pet in court

If that fails, then you will need to convince a judge you should have responsibility for the animal. You can achieve this by showing you are the one who usually feeds it. You can also show you make enough money to pay for any veterinary expenses that come up. It is possible for the judge to award joint ownership where both spouses get the animal for a set amount of time. However, this can be stressful for dogs and cats, so the spouses would do well to determine on their own which individual should care for the pet. 

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