They are a part of the family. In many Illinois homes, the dog and/or cat are considered to be a vital family member. While they do require food, love, medical attention and more, they often give so much more to the family. The state of Illinois has recognized that pets are an integral part of the family and has recently begun addressing pets as a custody issue rather than a property division one when couples divorce.
In many cases, the family pet is treated as if it were one of the children. This is even more prevalent in homes where there are no children present. The "parents" take time to play with and even plan their schedules around the pet's needs. Sitters are hired to take care of the beloved pet when the family will be away for an extended period, and in some instances, the pet has his or her own play area, car seat and more.
In some homes, only one family member has developed an attachment to the pet. In other homes, both "parents" have formed a bond. Then, when the couple decides to divorce, the question of who gets custody of the pet can become an issue.
Illinois judges now have legislative guidance regarding pets when it comes to divorce. Until recently, pets were considered in the property division portion of the agreement. Now, when the couple is unable to decide who should receive custody, the judge may look at a variety of factors, including the day-to-day care and well-being of the pet. As with all parts of the divorce process, the individual will want to work with experienced legal counsel in achieving a result that best meets the individual's and the pet's needs.
Source: 6abc.com, "Judge to decide pet custody for divorcing couples in Illinois", Dec. 27, 2017