Pet Custody Laws Lawyer Chicago Illinois

McNamara Legal understands that your beloved pet is part of the family, and that losing a pet for any reason can be devastating. Founding partner Ana McNamara is the proud owner of a Wheaten Terrier. In fact, almost every consulting attorney with McNamara Legal owns a pet.  If you are in a divorce or other relationship and there is a dispute regarding ownership and custody of a pet,  McNamara Legal is one of the few attorneys who regularly address pet custody disputes and who will fight aggressively to make sure Rover stays with you. 

What are the Illinois Pet Laws?

Unfortunately, pets are generally treated as mere “property” under the law. However, Illinois is making progress, and on January 1, 2018, it enacted a new Illinois Pet Custody Law (cited as 750 ILCS 5/503).  The law now allows for joint custody in a divorce, and states that the court “shall take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal.” Therefore, the bond the animal has with the parties and even the children, are now a factor as well as the ability and time to care for the animal. This law applies only to animals that are deemed “marital property” (acquired together after the marriage). The new law does not apply to livestock or service animals. If a party does not want to risk a court determination of ownership, an agreement regarding visitation and care can be made by the parties, and approved by the court.

If the pet in dispute is not marital property, custody will revolve around proving ownership. Factors in determining pet custody include who paid for the pet, who cared for the pet, who paid the medical bills, whose name is the pet registered under, etc.  Hiring an experienced divorce attorney versed in pet custody law is the first step to making sure you don’t lose your best friend.

Custody of a Pet With Your Boyfriend or Girlfriend

Buying a pet with your boyfriend or girlfriend is not a great idea. Remember, only one person gets the pet in a breakup.  However, if you are thinking about doing this, call McNamara Legal to prepare a pet custody agreement in the event of a breakup.  If the topic will generate an argument, call for confidential legal advice on what to do to ensure you are the legal owner of the pet in the event the relationship ends.

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