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What happens with your pet when you divorce in Illinois?

You might have heard before of an "amicable divorce". Those spouses that are most apt to reach a friendly conclusion to their marriage are few. It's generally only those who've been married a short time, have little assets and no kids that can amicably resolve their differences. The more property or children that a couple has, the more likely that they are to have to litigate their divorce.

Pets are increasingly becoming another reason why divorcing couples have to head to court. This is especially the case if one or both spouses see the pet as more of a family member as opposed to a mere animal.

Historically speaking, family law judges have treated pets like any other assets such as houses or cars. In recent years, many states have begun passing laws requiring them to classify pets more like kids that spouses have to work out custody and visitation schedules for.

On January 1, a new state law went into effect in Illinois. While up until the end of last year, judges treated pets more like property, they're now handled more like kids when couples divorce.

The Democratic Illinois State Senator who sponsored the bill did so in part because she's an animal lover. She couldn't imagine a pet's best interests not being taken into consideration if a couple were to split up. Alaska and California are two other states that have similar laws on the books.

An Elgin judge may ask various questions when making custody determinations regarding pets. They may ask who originally purchased or adopted the pet and who generally takes care of their needs such as walking them or taking them to the veterinarian.

The judge may have you decide what the visitation schedule will be like, whether you'll enjoy shared or joint custody and whether restrictions regarding either one of these applies. If you're unable to reach a decision, then they'll make one for you.

Much like child custody matters, disputes involving pets have a way of becoming heated very quickly. If you and your ex share a dog, cat or other pet that's important to both of you, then you may want to consult with a divorce attorney. They can help you settle disputes that are keeping you from reaching a final agreement in your case.

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