Tagged as pet custody

New Illinois Pet Custody Law 2018

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

Collaborative Divorce & Mediation Can Solve Pet Custody Conflicts

Pet DivorceCustody issues in divorce are no longer just about children. As shown in a recent web article, hostile and passionate battles are now often fought over placement and/or visitation rights for pets in many divorce cases.

This is another situation where divorce mediation can find a solution that works for everyone, human and non-human alike.


Under Illinois divorce law, pets are treated as property. As such, a judge will try to fairly “distribute” pet custody based on the normal factors of property ownership such as how each person acquired the property and what they contributed to the marriage.

This can become a sensitive and emotional issue for owners who see their pets as beloved members of the family, not a piece of jewelry or a set of golf clubs.

When deciding where a pet will go post-divorce, some sympathetic judges may try to determine which party is more bonded to the pet and/or who invested more time and money for its care. It’s more likely, however, that the person who wants the pet will be required to give up another asset that’s similar in value to the cost of the pet’s ongoing support.

And all this assumes that a judge will even allow a pet custody issue to be discussed at all.


It’s pretty clear there are no guaranteed outcomes when the issue of pet custody is played out in court, which is all the more reason to settle the issue through mediation, collaborative divorce or uncontested divorce procedures.

When parties meet to talk in a neutral setting, they can potentially negotiate and detail a mutually agreed upon pet custody arrangement. Mediation allows time and space for everyone to have frank conversations about who really wants the pet as well as who is prepared and able to care for it financially and physically.

From this can flow a visitation schedule, shared care possibilities or other options based on each party’s needs and desires.

Unless you’ve created a prenuptial agreement that covers how pets will be handled in a divorce, services like mediation offer more reliable, flexible and cost-effective results than working through the courts.

If your divorce scenario involves pet custody, contact me to learn how mediation can help create a workable solution.


Erin_Birt_37032Illinois attorney Erin Birt is a skilled legal professional with over ten years of experience in trial and divorce law serving clients in many DuPage County cities including Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Naperville, Warrenville and Winfield.

She opened the Law Firm of Erin Birt, P.C. in 2010 to offer her clients alternative divorce resolution services, specialized collaborative divorce options and family law expertise. She and her expert team continually develop creative outcomes such divorce mediation and family law mediation that work for all parties involved, particularly children.

Ms. Birt holds a J.D. from DePaul College of Law and is a member of the Collaborative Practice Professionals of Illinois, the Collaborative Law Institute of Illinois, the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals and the DuPage County Bar Association.