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How a New Illinois Divorce Law Affects Cats

A new Illinois divorce law finally recognizes cats as members of the family instead of simple property to be divided among parties.


It’s no secret that half of all marriages end in divorce, and that number seems to rise every year. Along with a rise in divorce comes a rise in feline custody battles. In cases of a domestic dispute over the ownership of a pet, courts generally view pets as property.

But, there are no laws protecting the family couch from abuse. We don’t snuggle in bed with the teapot.

Finally, a new Illinois divorce law is recognizing that cat owners don’t view their pets as property, but as family members, granting a judge the power to determine which party was the better pet parents and grant custody of the animal accordingly.

The law, sponsored by state Sen. Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, is meant to treat pets less like property and more like family. “It has feelings and emotions,” Holmes told WQAD. “They’re looking at what would be in the best interest of the animal.”

In a pet custody battle, both sides would present their case to a judge as to why they should be awarded custody. Of major consideration in determining custody is the day-to-day care of the animal – who scoops the litter box or walks the dog, who feeds the pets, cleans up after them, provides vet care and stays on top of vaccinations and licensing, etc. The new law, of course, does not apply to service dogs who would always stay with their disabled handler.

In some cases, a judge will grant joint/shared custody to both parties.

Last year, Alaska became the first state first state in the country to require courts to take into consideration the well-being of the animal and to empower judges to assign custody of pets.

Would you support similar divorce laws in your own state? Weigh in with a comment below!



  1. JAMES

    Jan 5, 2018 at 10:31 am

    I think this is very important! And I fully support this! I have witnessed first hand what happens when a animal that has bonded with their “owner” becomes separated. Cats specifically are known to get depressed and stop eating and drinking witch leads to a number of illnesses for them normally resulting in death!

  2. Elizabeth G Robison

    Jan 8, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    yes, especially in the light of recent stories regarding abuse of animals as a “pay back” to divorcing spouse.

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