When you are entering the beginning stages of divorce, determining the separation of marital assets, including large ones such as the family home, and deciding on groundbreaking, life-altering things like child custody obviously take precedence. As such, other major life-altering decisions can sometimes get pushed to the back burner. One of these decisions is pet custody — a decision that can effect not only your daily life but that of your children as well. In cases in which there were no children in the marriage, determining pet custody can be as complicated and as important as child custody arrangements. Here’s what you need to know about pet custody in Illinois.
Though you may feel as if your pet is a family member, pets are considered property in the eyes of the law. This means that whoever actually bought the animal will have ultimate say over what happens to it, regardless of what transpired during the marriage. This can be altered if you have enough time to plan before the divorce and are attempting to keep the animal. You can speak with your vet to make yourself the primary caregiver or point of emergency contact. Keep receipts for purchases made for the pets, including, but not limited to grooming receipts, training classes, food, and veterinary care. If it is determined that you were the primary caregiver for the pet, even if the pet technically belongs to your spouse, you may have a case to make in a court of law.
Conversely, a pet custody battle may be waged if the animal is considered dangerous, and neither member of the marriage wants to take custody or responsibility for the animal. Similarly to division of marital property, whoever purchased the pet will likely be held responsible — unless the party can prove that the other person was the primary caregiver and was responsible for the animal’s behavior at the time that it was dangerous.
If you or someone you know has questions about pet custody during divorce — or any other part of the proceedings — do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced DuPage County family law attorneytoday.