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Understanding Animal Custody During Divorce: A Guide for Pet Owners

Exploring the Impact of Divorce on Animal Custody

We love and care for our pets like they are our friends and family. For many couples, pets are an essential part of the family, and depend on each other for emotional support. When a divorce arises, it can cause pet custody disagreements over ownership and visitation rights. Luckily, Illinois enacted a law that views pets as a marital asset. This allows judges to rule custody agreements in the pet’s best interest and dictate responsibilities for each owner. Take the time to learn more about animal custodial rights during a divorce, and remember that your furry friend’s safety and happiness should always be a priority.

Legal Considerations for Pet Custody

The first step in ruling a pet custody case is dictating if the animal is a marital asset.  Before 2018, courts viewed pets as personal property that could only be given to one person. When this new law was added to Section 503(n) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, it allowed judges to decide whether the pet is a marital asset and whether joint or sole ownership is in the pet’s best interest and owner’s responsibilities.

A marital asset is a property gained after marriage but before divorce. A court will decide if your pet is a marital or non-marital property. If the judge decides the animal is marital, whoever has predominately taken care of the pet will receive custody.

A judge will also consider children since they usually have a close connection with their family pets. The parent with more child custody has a higher chance of receiving animal custody, so your children also get to spend time with their pets.

It is important to note that this law only covers pets purchased after marriage. If any pet is bought before the marriage, the person who originally purchased the pet will have full ownership. Navigating these laws alongside a trusted family lawyer can help make this process easier. At Strieker Law Firm, Kristen can help mediate a fair schedule incorporating both parties and build an animal custody case.

Negotiating Pet Custody Agreements

Your pet’s best interest should be at the forefront of each owner’s mind while discussing a pet custody agreement. Openly communicating and compromising throughout this process will help make your agreement fair.

Time is the most significant factor that should dictate who receives the most time with the pet. Although creating a joint custody agreement is an excellent way for both owners to spend time with their pets, each owner must consider their schedule and their animal’s needs. Finding time to feed, exercise, groom, and take the pet to vet visits must be factored in. Financial stability and support are also crucial when deciding on a custody agreement.

We recommend implementing joint custody agreements, visitation schedules, and shared responsibilities so you and your pet do not miss out on each other’s company.

Ensuring the Well-Being of Animals During Divorce

Pets are affected by divorce just as much as people are. Many animals depend on the love and support both their owners provide them and might struggle during this lifestyle change. Whether bringing your pet to a new house, living alone, or constantly transporting them, you need to spare time for extra care and attention toward them.

We encourage you to maintain a stable environment and schedule to minimize your pet’s stress. Reducing anxiety for your pets will help improve their health, behavior, and well-being.

Resources and Support for Pet Owners

While you must care for your pets, focusing on yourself while coping with divorce is essential. Your pets will receive the best love and care when you are in the right mindset. Joining a divorce support group or seeking counseling to mediate between owners helps many people struggling with divorce.

You can join many different support groups that fit your specific needs. There are support groups for only women, men, parents, Christians, and middle-aged people. Participating in these groups can help rebuild your relationship with yourself, the people around you, and your pets.

Navigating Animal Custody with Compassion and Legal Expertise

No matter the circumstances, confiding in a professional lawyer who understands the legality of splitting assets will make this process easier. At Strieker Law Firm, Kristen has the knowledge and expertise to mediate and cohesively create a plan to divide assets that fits both peoples’ needs.

Legal professionals can also help build a compelling case for people wanting full ownership, help negotiate fair agreements, and protect pets’ rights. We understand how essential pets are to people and their well-being, especially after a divorce. Kristen can help you and your ex-spouse split your assets, even if your pets are also involved. Contact us to schedule an appointment and learn how we can help you during your divorce.

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