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New Illinois Law Addresses Pet Custody in a Divorce

By Nottage and Ward on March 1, 2018

We all know that issues relating to property division and child custody can be contentious in a separation or divorce, but what about pets? In the past, Illinois law has treated pets as property when dividing up assets. However, a new law that went into effect on January 1, 2018, allows a judge to take a pet’s well-being into consideration when allocating joint or sole custody of Spot or Puff.

This new legislation was sponsored by Linda Holmes, a state senator from the western suburb of Aurora and a professed animal lover. “It sort of starts treating your animal more like children,” she said. “If you’re going before a judge, they’re allowed to take the best interest of the animal into consideration.” The law only applies to companion animals (pets) that are marital assets, not service animals.

In a recent Tribune article, Jeffrey Knipmeyer, a partner at Chicago’s Nottage and Ward family law practice, said that “Most couples are able to reach an agreement on pets outside of court,” and that in his 21 years of experience, he’s only dealt with the issue a few times.

Madeline Marzano-Lesnevich, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, says that, “Over the last decade, the question of pet custody has become more prevalent, particularly when it involves a two-income couple with no children who shared responsibility for and are both attached to the pet.”

Attorney Knipmeyer concluded that “It’s a positive step in the law, to include now, a consideration for the well-being of the animal. Most pet owners think of their dogs as being something more than a piece of property. They think of them as a member of their family.”

If you have any question regarding pet custody in a divorce or separation, don’t hesitate to contact the experienced legal team at Nottage and Ward, LLC. Call (312) 332-2915 for a free consultation.

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