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Is your dog really just another piece of property?

During a divorce, some of the most difficult questions appear in relation to child custody issues. This makes sense, as parents love their children and often times both parents believe their ability to care for their children is superior to that of the person who will become their former spouse. Because of this, there is a formal structure to resolve child custody matters, and a great deal of case law that has developed in Illinois and most other states.

An area that is becoming a more frequent problem within divorce cases, but which lacks the formal legal apparatus of child custody to help resolve the issues, is that of pet custody. Americans love their pets and spend billions of dollars on them, so it is understandable that when a marriage breaks up, the parties may have strong opinions on who receives their dog, cat or other animal.

From a legal perspective, a dog or cat is property, no matter how much love and affection the rest of the family heaps on the animal. In a divorce proceeding, Fido or Fifi will be treated just like any other piece of personal property. While the "parents" of the dog or cat may view them as a "child," most judges are not interested in spending much or any of the court's time discussing the custody arrangements.

If your feelings are so deep, and your partner's are similar, your best course of action may be to develop a "custody plan" with a visitation schedule on your own, with the help of your attorney.

You can work out the schedule that will best meet your needs and the needs of your beloved pet.

Source: East Bay Express, "How to Navigate Pet Custody Battles," Elly Schmidt-Hopper, June 5, 2013

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