Pet owners who are going through a divorce in 2018 will get an opportunity to petition for joint or sole possession of their family pet as part of the divorce process under new changes to Illinois law. These changes to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act will make a major difference to pet owners who could not previously seek to keep their pets in the same way as the new law provides, unless they had an agreement with the other spouse and pet owner.
Under the new changes to Illinois law that took effect on January 1, 2018, family pets will be treated much in the same way children are in a divorce, even though they will still be considered marital assets. The judge will be able to make a determination of which spouse should keep the pet in a divorce based on the best interests of the pet. The law will apply to pets that are not service animals.
Before this change in Illinois law, a pet was considered property, and in a divorce, the judge granted ownership of the pet in line with the equitable division of the marital property. Generally, the judge did not consider the well-being of the pet in deciding which spouse kept the pet, and sometimes the spouse who cared most for the pet was not able to keep the pet after the divorce.
Courts may rely on different factors and evidence in order to determine the well-being of a pet. The court may consider which spouse primarily cared for the pet—for example, which spouse routinely fed and walked the pet or took it to the vet. There could be situations where testimony is considered in order to show the judge that one spouse would be a better caregiver than the other.
The law does not change the fact that a divorcing couple can enter into an agreement as to which person will keep the pet after the divorce. The terms of these agreements can be decided between the parties and a spouse can agree to give up possession of a pet to the other spouse in exchange for receiving another asset. The spouses can also agree to jointly own the pet, and agree to a schedule during which each person can see the pet each week or month.
Contact Us for Legal Assistance
If you are a pet owner filing for divorce or are in the midst of a divorce in the New Year, you may have a new way to ensure that you are not separated from a beloved pet after the divorce is concluded. For more information about how these new changes to the law may affect you, contact a passionate DuPage County divorce attorney at Momkus McCluskey Roberts LLC for a consultation.