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Chicago Divorce Lawyer > Blog > Pet Custody > Pet Custody In Chicago – A Trendy Fad Or Legally Binding?

Pet Custody In Chicago – A Trendy Fad Or Legally Binding?


You may have heard the term “pet custody” in recent years, but perhaps didn’t believe that it was a valid legal concept. As Americans turned to furry companions during the COVID-19 Pandemic to alleviate stress, provide stability and routine, and offer companionship, some of them also turned to divorce post-pandemic, but still with the pet within the family. Separation from a pet can be traumatic, and for many people it feels exactly like losing a child. However, under most state laws, even in 2020, pets are still treated like pieces of property, like a car or a bank account, when it comes to the issue of divorce. However, in some states, pet custody, just like child custody, is part of the legal dissolution of the marriage process, and must be considered when there is a pet subject to the marriage.

Pet Custody in the United States, A Small Patchwork of Laws

In 2017, Alaska became the first state in the United States to establish pet custody as part of the legal framework of marriage and divorce laws. In doing so, Alaska required, as part of the analysis when determining who will take care of the pet after a divorce, that courts look to the “best interests” of the pet, rather than treating pets as part of the property division process. Not long after, New York, California, New Hampshire, Maine and, in 2018, Illinois adopted pet custody laws into marriage and divorce laws. What this means is that in these states, if a married couple adopts or otherwise become “owners” of a pet during a marriage, the “best interests” of the pet will be considered during any divorce proceedings when it comes to who gets the pet. Importantly, just as in the case of child custody, under pet custody arrangements, ex-spouses may share custody of the pet, called “joint custody”, or one ex-spouse may have sole custody of the pet.

Protecting Fido and Yourself – Does a Prenuptial Agreement Make Sense in Chicago?

One way to minimize the risk of losing custody of a pet, or risk sharing the care of a pet more than you want with a potential ex-spouse in Chicago, is to enter into a prenuptial agreement prior to getting married. You can include matters regarding custody and visitation matters, as well as matters regarding expenses for the pets living and medical and other needs, in a binding contract. For many pet owners, prenuptial agreements are a good way to have a peace of mind in case a relationship goes south.

Legal Help with Pet Custody in Chicago

If you have questions about pet custody or you need someone on your side to fight for custody of your pet in Chicago, the experienced Chicago pet custody lawyers at Birnbaum Gelfman Sharma & Arnoux, LLC are here to help. The experienced Chicago pet custody lawyers at Birnbaum Gelfman Sharma & Arnoux, LLC offer a confidential consultation to learn about your pet custody case and concerns and to see if they can help. Contact Birnbaum Gelfman Sharma & Arnoux, LLC today and speak to a lawyer about your rights and options.

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