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Who Gets the Pets in an Illinois Divorce?

Posted on in Divorce

Schaumburg divorce attorney, parental responsibilities, marital property, family pet, pets and divorceThe process of divorce can be difficult and contentious, especially when spouses disagree about how to divide assets and debts and/or allocate parental responsibility. While a lot of attention is paid to issues like the best interests of the children of divorcing parents and what is considered marital property, one issue that sometimes gets overlooked during divorce is what to do with family pets.

While cats, dogs, and other animals are not human, many people consider them to be part of the family, and treating them like another piece of property to divide often does not seem right.

Illinois law was recently updated to reflect these attitudes, and some additional considerations are now given to pets when determining their ownership during divorce.

Updated Illinois Divorce Laws

In August of 2017, Governor Bruce Rauner signed a new law which updates the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) to add language about allocating ownership and responsibility of “companion animals,” which are otherwise known as pets. While pets are still considered marital assets, the law states that when courts make decisions about the sole or joint ownership of pets, they should consider the pets’ well-being.

While this change does not give pets the same level of consideration of children, it does show that they are more than mere property. Under this new law, spouses may need to demonstrate that they will be able to care for pets and provide a good environment for them following the divorce, making pets less likely to be used as a bargaining chip in divorce disputes.

The law provides an exception for service animals, which Illinois statutes define as animals which have been “trained in obedience and task skills to meet the needs of a person with a disability.” While the law does not provide a definition for “companion animals,” it references the Humane Care for Animals Act, which defines a companion animal as “an animal that is commonly considered to be, or is considered by the owner to be, a pet, [including], but not limited to, canines, felines, and equines.” This change to the IMDMA takes effect on January 1, 2018.

Contact a Schaumburg Divorce Lawyer

If you need help determining who will retain ownership of family pets following your divorce, the compassionate, knowledgeable attorneys of Anderson & Associates, P.C. can help you work out an arrangement that provides for your family’s best interests, and, if necessary, we can advocate for you in court. Contact a Schaumburg divorce attorney at 847-995-9999 to schedule a free consultation.

Sources:

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/publicacts/fulltext.asp?Name=100-0422

http://www.ilga.gov/legislation/ilcs/ilcs3.asp?ActID=1717&ChapterID=41

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