Whether it’s Spot or Fido, pets have not only been an important addition to families but are often considered a family member in their own right. Because of this love for animals, when a couple is divorcing, one of the contentious issues may be who gets to keep the family pet. Animals across the United States are taking a much more important role in families and although they are still considered property, divorce courts are starting to handle the issue more like child custody cases.
A survey of divorce lawyers in 2006 showed that 25 percent of them reported a sizeable increase in pet custody cases since 2001. In divorce cases, pets are legally defined as personal property, as is the case across the country. But due to the emotional attachment that one may have to an animal, the property division can be a lot more difficult than the splitting of assets such as a car of furniture.
Courts are starting to take into consideration the importance of the pet for those in the family. They are considering issues such as who was the primary caregiver of the animal when it comes to determining custody of the pet. In a lot of cases, a judge will place a family pet in the home where the minor children will reside after the divorce.
Although documents, such as prenuptial agreements, could help a divorcing couple make a swifter decision, the choice is often left to the courts to find a home for the pet. Those in Illinois confronting pet custody issues may do well to understand the relevant law as it applies to their case in the hopes of negotiating an equitable resolution.