Paw-rental Responsibilities

In January 2018,  the implementation of Illinois’ pet custody law has re-defined our pets, from the old definition as “property” to the new definition of “companion animal.”  With the new definition comes a new law, which provides that, during the divorce, if a judge finds that your companion animal is a marital asset, the judge shall consider the wellbeing of the companion animal when determining the allocation of “paw-rental” responsibilities for that animal.

What a Companion Animal Offers

A companion animal helps a person focus on the moment, rather than trying to control every moving part of the divorce process. When your mind is overwhelmed and filled with panic, your companion animal brings you mentally into the here and now, providing both a focal point and motivation.

When you are going through a divorce, you can feel disoriented, like your world is a foreign place where you don’t want to be. It can be difficult to organize your thinking, and you may experience the inability to concentrate. Until you can concentrate, you can’t help your family law attorney help you with the details of your divorce. Inevitably, the details are financial in nature, and your focused participation is essential to your best outcome. Think of the ability to concentrate as being like a muscle, gaining strength the more it is exercised. When divorcing spouse focuses on their companion animal longer than he or she can normally concentrate on any one thing, this “muscle” can become gradually stronger.

Your companion animal helps you to overcome depression. Physical inactivity can bring on depression, and the divorce process may be so overwhelming to you, so alien, that you feel paralyzed. Having to move from your home, away from your routines, is a shock to anyone but especially to the person who has lived in the same home for many years, maybe the entirety of the marriage. When you have your companion animal with you, you have a powerful antidote to depression.

The physical exercise of taking care of a companion animal, the touching involved, the emotional sense of connection to a new neighborhood when you circulate with your animal to develop and maintain social skills, and the sure knowledge of your animal’s dependence upon you, will keep your spirits in excellent shape.

Companion Animals & Divorce

When you and your spouse have lost the ability or desire to communicate, it gets harder and harder to start again with a new person. Animals have physical senses far more acute than human senses, so it’s not hard to understand that animals can communicate sophisticated information to perceptive humans. But your companion animal will continue to communicate with you, and can help you to re-develop your social skills. When life in your divorcing home is far from civilized, somehow your companion animal can help you find a bridge back to civilization.

Another way your companion animal helps you is by meeting the universal need for physical touch. Many people are uncomfortable hugging or otherwise touching strangers, or even people they know. Sexual taboos can also make touch awkward. Companion animals enjoy the petting and hugging they get in their lives. Their obvious enjoyment encourages more touch, bringing profound benefits to their owners. When you and your spouse are divorcing, a chasm has opened between you. You may be unconditioned to the lack of touch you are experiencing. Touch plays a major role in nonverbal communication between people, and now the exchange between you and your companion animal is essential.

Your companion animal can serve as incentive to “get out of yourself” – time with your animal, going for a walk, throwing a ball, will often induce you to be more cooperative and participate with your family law attorney. You gain therapeutic benefits from thinking of your responsibilities toward your pet. Your companion animal can serve you by increasing your commitment to your best outcome.

Sometimes a person going through divorce will experience grief. A companion animal can alleviate depression and feelings of uselessness. When you help your companion animal experience happy anticipation, the quiet involvement can make a difference in your world. Your companion animal can help to prepare you for the unstable, emotionally unsatisfying, world of divorce. Your family law attorney may keep appointments faithfully, and return your calls timely, and answer your questions promptly; but nothing can replace the happy anticipation, the deep and unconditional love, of a companion animal.

Putting The New Illinois Pet Laws to Work For You

Talk to a family law attorney about the new companion animal law or Illinois pet custody law, and explain how it would be emotionally, mentally, and physically healthy for you to be awarded primary allocation of responsibility for your companion animal.

Schedule your free, no obligation consultation to see how our legal team and experienced family law attorneys can assist you with your family law needs. Call us at 815-600-8950 or contact us online today.


This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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