People all too often assume that couples who don’t have children have an easy time going through divorce. The truth is that divorce is difficult regardless of how big or small your family unit is.

While couples who don’t have children won’t have to worry about arranging for child support or visitation schedules, they may still have a dependent in their life with whom they want to retain a relationship.

In this case, however, it would be a four-legged dependent, not a child. People can develop intense and meaningful bonds with pets or companion animals.

It’s only natural to want to retain this relationship at a time when you likely need that unconditional love to help you cope with the reality of divorce. In short, you need to ensure you have custody of your pet.

For most of its history, the state of Illinois has treated pets like property in divorce proceedings. That means that one spouse could receive the pets in divorce, but the judges deciding the outcome of the divorce couldn’t really do more than this.

Thanks to a newer law in Illinois, you have a right to visit with your four-legged friend even if you know you can’t offer them a forever home after the divorce.

Visitation and shared custody of pets is now possible in an Illinois divorce

The courts have seen too many protracted battles because of the “winner take all” approach that resulted from viewing animals as possessions. People would become so emotional about the pet that they’d lose sight of the bigger picture.

Since the new law went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, divorcing couples in Illinois have had more options regarding how they handle their companion animals. For some couples, the option of sharing custody or arranging for visitation could solve the biggest outstanding issue and help the divorce proceed without litigation.

Couples choosing to go through mediation could also make use of this new law by outlining a custody agreement or visitation schedule for their pets in the mediation session.

How do judges decide custody of pets?

Judges will make decisions in litigated cases based on the best interests of the pet. If both of the people involved have the space and time to devote to the animal, shared custody may be the best solution.

If one person works long hours or regularly travels as part of their job, they may not be able to offer full-time housing and care to the pet. In a scenario like this, agreeing to visitation could be the best outcome.

Like any other area of family law, custody can quickly become complicated and contentious. Working with an experienced Illinois family law attorney is your best option for keeping your pet a part of your life as you navigate divorce.