There is a new Illinois Pet Custody Law.  Starting January 1, 2018, Illinois Judges can consider the well-being of a pet when awarding sole or joint ownership during a divorce.  Previously, pets were considered property.  The pet, as well as the financial responsibility for the pet, was simply allocated to one spouse, similar to a car.

Factors to Consider

The new law likely allows a judge to consider the following when determining pet ownership:

  1. The pet is a companion animal;
  2. The well-being of the animal;
  3. The primary care-giver for the pet;
  4. The financial ability to care for the pet.

Problems with the New Law

While it may appear straight forward, determining the issue of the well-being of a pet can be complicated. The new law does not define “companion animals” and the factors for “well-being”.  You should consult with our experienced family law and divorce attorney to discuss your best options for pet ownership issues.

Birt Law Divorce Tip

Our divorce tip – gather all of your pet ownership documents, veterinarian records, and pet training/obedience records and schedule a divorce consultation with our office to review your documents and discuss your likelihood of maintaining the ownership of your beloved pet after your divorce.


Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over fifteen years of experience in divorce law. Erin serves clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville, West Chicago, and Winfield as well as other cities throughout the state.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients a No Scorched Earth approach to divorce. She and her expert team focus on connecting the financial, emotional, and legal so her clients can successfully start the next chapter of their lives.

Ms. Birt graduated from DePaul College of Law and is a certified Alcohol and Substance Abuse Counselor. She is a member and presenter for the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, the Mediation Council of Illinois, and the DuPage County Bar Association. She is also a pet owner devoted to rescuing, rehabilitating, and giving animals another chance for a wonderful life.

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photo credit: 1. Erin Birt 2. Jenn Martin Photography