Joint custody agreements aren’t just for children anymore. It is becoming more and more common for divorcing couples to seek joint custody arrangements for their pets. After all, for many married couples, their pets are part of their family. Deciding who gets a beloved pet can make for quite a contentious struggle – one that could potentially hold up the process of your divorce.
In Illinois, there are laws that deal specifically with custody of children, how courts should determine who gets custody, how visitation should work, and so on. With pets, it is quite different. There are no state laws that deal specifically with pet custody. Coming to an agreement with your spouse over joint custody may be the only way for joint custody to be possible.
Going to Court Over Your Pet
Pets are considered property in all fifty states. As such, if a court is tasked with dividing the property of a divorcing couple, they will have to choose which spouse should receive the pet – and a judge is unlikely to put in place a joint custody agreement for a piece of property.
If you are in this situation, there are many factors that could affect the judge’s decision regarding who gets the pet. Demonstrating that you owned the pet before you got married will likely help your chances of keeping the pet considerably. It could also be helpful to show that you have spent a great deal of time with the pet, or to provide receipts showing that you were the one who paid some of the pet’s expenses (such as veterinary bills.)
It is possible that the judge will consider the best interests of the pet – the same way that courts use the best interests of the child as the determining factor in child custody cases. There is no guarantee, though, that the judge will be concerned about this.
Alternative Dispute Resolution
If you and your spouse are both open to the possibility of a joint custody agreement for your pet, you should consider mediation. Mediation is a voluntary process, which will give the two of you the opportunity to come up with an agreement that will allow you both to spend time with the pet. If you go to court, on the other hand, there is a good chance that one of you will be denied access to the pet permanently.
Mediation can also allow you to arrive at a schedule that will work for both of you. It can also save you quite a bit of time and money. However, if you do not reach an agreement, you can still go to court and let a judge decide the matter for you.
Finding Legal Representation
If you want to keep your pet in your life, you should speak to an attorney about your options; Reach out to the family law attorneys at Fay, Farrow & Associates, P.C. in Naperville, Illinois by calling (630) 961-0060. We can tell you which strategies are the most likely to help you maintain access to your pet, and advocate aggressively on your behalf to help ensure you hold onto your beloved animal.