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Pet Custody – A Growing Problem in Divorce Cases

By Leslie Fineberg on July 23, 2014

Anybody who owns pets knows that they are more than mere pieces of property; they are members of the family. That is why pet custody is becoming a growing — and frustrating — issue in divorce cases in Illinois and across the nation.

A recent article in the Chicago Tribune pointed out how contentious the battle for a pet can become.

A Carol Stream man, upset that he does not have custody of the couple’s 5-year-old black Labrador retriever during divorce proceedings, has asked a Will County judge to let an independent arbitrator decide who will ultimately get custody of the dog.

His spouse claims that she is the proper person to care for the dog and contends that dividing visits between two homes is not in the dog’s best interest. Her attorney contends that the husband is using the issue to maintain contact with his wife so he can harass her during divorce proceedings. An order for protection has been filed against him.

The 50-year-old man claims he deserves custody because he took the dog on regular walks at a forest preserve near the couple’s house and even took her on business trips with him. After the marriage soured the dog went to his wife, and he is not happy about that.

Apparently, he is not alone in feeling this way. A survey taken by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers, which is located in Chicago, showed that more than 25 percent of respondents said they have seen an increase in pets mentioned in divorce cases in the last five years.

An attorney who deals with this sticky issue in the Chicago area says that pet custody cases have increased in her business by some 60 percent over the past decade. Legal experts contend that judges tend to see pets as property, like a chair or a time-share, and not as a family member; which is a problem when it comes to the emotionally charged issue of pet custody and visitation rights in a divorce proceeding.

If you have questions about pet custody, contact the divorce attorneys at Nottage & Ward in Chicago. We understand that pets are not property and will do everything in our power to assure that your pet’s best interests — and yours — are served.

Call us at (312) 332-2915 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation today.

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