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More and more Illinois couples are viewing pets as part of the family. These fur balls are here with us for the highs and lows of daily life, so it’s only natural to start treating them less as objects and more as family members.

In some divorces, the hardest conversation features the four-legged family member.

Illinois lawmakers recognized the role pets play in our lives with a law passed in 2018. The law allows judges to weigh the animal’s well-being when determining ownership. This can mean assigning split-ownership or putting a custody agreement in place.

The person who feeds, cleans and takes care of a pet most of the time is more likely to be awarded custody. Judges can look at the past relationship and decide what would best suit the animal.

The goal is to give the pet to the person who has demonstrated the most investment in their care. The importance placed on animals means contentious divorces can hinge on a cherished pet. The Illinois law allows discretion on the part of judges. They can ensure that the animal’s best interests are considered, no matter the outcome.

While most couples are able to decide where the dog should go, there are some who simply cannot or will not reach an agreement. With these cases, a judge’s ability to grant joint custody or custody agreements means any outcome will consider the best interest of an animal.

Pets can be a major sticking point in even the most amicable divorces. Fortunately, Illinois courts have options for deciding what’s best for these four-legged family members.

The contention around pets highlights just how complicated divorce can get. If you are facing a potential separation, an attorney skilled in Illinois family law can help answer questions around pets and anything else.