According to the National Pet Owners Survey, which was recently published by the American Pet Products Association, as many as 68 percent of U.S. households own a pet. Although pets can be valuable companions, they can and do cause conflict, especially for families going through a divorce who cannot decide who will retain possession of the animal. Until recently, legislatures across the country refrained from addressing these types of issues, leaving it up to judges to deal with the problem on a case by case basis. However, a recent amendment to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) could have a significant impact on how these kinds of decisions are addressed.
At SAM LAW OFFICE LLC we understand the important role that pets can play in a family, especially for children and so dedicate ourselves to helping our clients find solutions that best reflect these relationships. To learn more about property division issues that you may face in your divorce, please contact one of our experienced Rolling Meadows divorce attorneys for a free case evaluation.
For decades, Illinois statutory law was silent in regards to how pet ownership was to be dealt with during divorce. As a result, most courts treated animals as personal property to be divided like any other asset or belonging. This changed last summer when Governor Bruce Rauner signed an amendment into law that references how possession and responsibility of companion animals that are jointly owned should be allocated. The new amendments go into effect on January 1, 2018.
In the new amendments, the Illinois Legislature added a requirement that must be fulfilled before a couple can file for a simplified divorce. Parties who wish to use the simplified divorce process must now provide evidence that they executed a written agreement allocating ownership and responsibility for any pets. Furthermore, parties to a divorce also now have the option to petition the court for the temporary allocation of sole or joint possession and responsibility for a jointly owned family pet.
Perhaps most importantly, judges are now specifically ordered to take the well-being of the animal into consideration when making these decisions. This change represents a significant departure from the previous treatment of pet-related custody decisions when animals were treated solely as property. Finally, divorcing couples are explicitly permitted to come to an out-of-court agreement about whether a family pet will be shared or cared for by a single party. Although this is often the best way to handle these types of situations, it is not always possible, so it is important to retain copies of ownership or adoption papers, as well as registration records. These documents could come in handy at a later date when trying to demonstrate which spouse purchased and primarily cared for the pet. Courts may also ask who takes the pet to the vet or who makes arrangements for pet care during vacations.
Call an Experienced Divorce Attorney Today
If you believe that possession of your family pet will be contested in your divorce, please contact the SAM LAW OFFICE LLC today at 847-255-9925 to speak with a top-rated divorce lawyer for free.