Effective January 1, 2018, there is a new changes to several Illinois laws, including the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act. One notable change in the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act will be how pets are treated in an Illinois divorce. Once the changes are in effect, judges who are presiding over an Illinois divorce will be able to award ownership of a pet after considering the well-being of the pet. The law actually refers to pets as companion animals and specifically exempts service animals from the law.
Previously, a judge made decisions on which spouse got to keep the family pet without considering if that spouse was the best person to take care of the pet. Under the new law, a spouse will have the opportunity to show the judge that he is best suited to take care of the pet. The law doesn’t specify how this will be shown, but spouses could rely on testimony from family and friends, or by presenting documentation showing that one parent had the primary responsibility of caring for the pet.
Pets will continue to be viewed as property even after the changes are implemented. The companion animals or pets that will be covered by the law are those that are considered marital property. Generally, this means that if one spouse owned the pet before marriage, the pet is more likely to be awarded to that spouse. However, this may not apply in every case, especially if the case decides that there were actions taken after the marriage that transformed the pet into marital property.
The changes do not mean that a spouse who is awarded sole of joint possession of the pet can seek financial support for maintenance of the pet. The person who is awarded possession will be responsible for meeting the needs of the pet. Pet owners are free to make an agreement regarding the possession of the pet, and they may decide to share the financial responsibility for the pet among themselves. If the agreement is otherwise legal, a court would enter an order making it enforceable.
As with other divorce-related agreements, even if you are in a low conflict divorce, it is best to have your attorney look at the terms of the agreement and advise you if signing the agreement is in your best interest.
Contact an Experienced Divorce Attorney
If you are concerned about how a divorce will affect your ownership of your pet, and how you can keep your pet after the divorce, you need to contact a knowledgeable divorce attorney. To set up a consultation, contact the passionate Naperville divorce attorneys at the Roscich & Martel Law Firm, LLC.