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Pets will soon not be part of property division in Illinois

Family courts in Illinois will consider the best interests of pets in divorce proceedings beginning in 2018. Currently, ownership of pets in divorce are handled through the property division process. Recognizing that many people consider their pets as family members, courts will now use the "best interests" test.

Reportedly, there are 124 million families in the United States who own pets, representing more than 60 percent of the nation's households. The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association says approximately $41 billion is spent on pets each year. That seems to be proof that pets of various types are part of the lives of many people, with particular importance to children and seniors.

Not everybody agrees with the change of pet status in divorce proceedings, and some legal professionals suggest that court battles may become even more drawn out when pet custody issues become contentious. They say that divorces are already such emotional affairs, and visitation and support for pets could only exacerbate the trauma. However, the Illinois state senator, Linda Holmes, who sponsored the new legislation said family pets have emotions and feelings, and their best interests should be considered by courts.

Some authorities say most pet issues are resolved by divorcing couples during property division and child custody negotiations even before the courts are involved. As with other divorce issues, those in Illinois who are struggling to reach pet custody agreements may find that an experienced family law attorney could assist. In some circumstances, a divorce mediator may help facilitate negotiations by encouraging communication and compromise.

Source:, "Editorial: Pets as property antiquated view in culture today", Dec. 19, 2017

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