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Chicago Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Pet Custody > High-Profile Celebrity Divorce Highlights Pet Custody Issues

High-Profile Celebrity Divorce Highlights Pet Custody Issues


There is no doubt that Americans love pets. In recent years, the trend towards pet ownership, and dog ownership in particular, has given rise to the popular joking adage “pets are the new babies”. Certainly, among populations from Gen-Z to Baby Boomer, pets have become an irreplaceable addition to the family, in some instances a family member, like a child. In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic spurred the already-growing pet-ownership trend in the U.S., with people adopting pets at a rapid pace to keep them company while various states mandated lockdowns and other social distancing measures. Indeed, pets as part of the family has been so ingrained in American culture that in some divorce cases, the battle for pet custody between divorcing parties has reached the vigorous timbre of child custody. A recent celebrity divorce between Dancing with the Stars dancer Cheryl Burke and actor Matthew Lawrence demonstrates the hot and pressing issue of pet custody in divorce cases.

According to entertainment news outlets, Ms. Burke filed for divorce from Mr. Lawrence in February of this year after having been married for almost three years. Divorce papers from the filing list early January as the couple’s date of separation, and “irreconcilable differences” as the reason for the dissolution, which is common in no-fault divorce states such as California and Illinois. According to reports, Ms. Burke and Mr. Lawrence finalized their divorce in September of this year, with most of the details of the dissolution worked out. As of the finalization of the divorce, the former couple agreed to split the two properties that they owned together so that each will own one, and have agreed to uphold the pre-marital agreement that was entered into prior to the marriage. Neither Mr. Lawrence, nor Ms. Burke have requested spousal support, and Mr. Burke will receive the lease on a vehicle subject to the marriage.

However, one aspect of Ms. Burke and Mr. Lawrence divorce remains to be ironed-out: custody of their dog, Ysabella. Ms. Burke noted that the dog is her “daughter” and that pet custody of Ysabella will be the subject of the upcoming trial in the dissolution proceedings, unless Mr. Lawrence “all of the sudden calls it off.”

Pet Custody Issues in Chicago Divorce Cases

Although we often see pet custody issues crop up in the news in high-profile celebrity divorce cases in California and other states, pet custody is a hot topic in Chicago divorces, and Chicago residents can seek pet custody in their divorce case. Under Illinois divorce laws, a judge in a divorce proceeding can consider “the best interests of the pet” when determining pet custody, which is the same standard in child custody proceedings. This is a development in Chicago divorce laws, which, until recently, treated pets as property when it came to allocating pet ownership in a divorce.

Contact Us Today for Help

For those who love their pets and treat them like family members, pet custody can be one of the most contentious and difficult parts of a divorce. Losing rights to a beloved pet can be like losing a family member, so pet owners going through the divorce process including a pet should reach out for legal help as soon as possible to preserve their pet custody rights. In Chicago, the experienced Chicago pet custody lawyers at the law offices of Birnbaum Gelfman Sharma & Arnoux, LLC, are here to help. They offer a confidential consultation to listen to your side of the story and to see if they can fight for you in your Chicago divorce. Contact the law offices of Birnbaum Gelfman Sharma & Arnoux, LLC, today to set up your consultation and speak to a lawyer about your Chicago divorce.



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