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Divorce and pet custody

Illinois readers may be interested to know that some judges are acknowledging that pets are family members. Rather then treating them as personal property in a divorce, in some cases, the best interests of the animal are being considered. It isn’t unusual to see legal motions filed asking for sole custody of the family dog.

Divorcing couples who are able to come to an agreement on this issue should take a few things into consideration when they decide who can best care for a beloved pet. For example, dogs generally like having company, so it might be wise to consider which person has the most flexible work schedule. Pets aren’t cheap to care for, so it’s also important to consider who has the financial ability to care for them. Consideration should also be given as to who has the most space for the dog to play and exercise.

The American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers conducted a recent survey among divorce lawyers and found there was an increase in pet custody cases in the legal system. There have been cases where the courts have awarded shared custody of a pet, visitation rights and even support payments. Some judges have even been known to hear expert witnesses and take into account who has the most time for the pet when making rulings.

Despite some changes, courts generally still view animals as personal property and follow the same rules that are used for dividing household possessions in a divorce. Therefore, it is important to try and come to a mutual agreement about the care and housing of a pet. An attorney may be able to assist in this type of negotiation and help create a plan that is satisfactory to both parties and in the pet’s best interest.

Source: The Huffington Post, “Who Gets the Family Dog After Divorce?“, Nancy Kay, November 10, 2013