New Illinois Divorce Law Changes How a Judge Determines Pet Ownership
Historically, pets have been treated more like furniture in divorce than living, feeling beings – but that is all about to change. A new divorce law, set to take effect on January 1, 2018, changes that. Learn more about this new law and how it may affect your divorce, and discover how an experienced lawyer can assist with the various aspects of your case, such as your right to continued pet ownership after an Illinois divorce.
A Closer Look at the New Law
As the law stands now, pets are treated as an asset in the marital estate but because they cannot be divided like other assets, they typically go to the owner that paid for the animal’s care (or the one that can most feasibly continue to financially care for the animal). Sadly, this has resulted in many pets being separated from the owner that loved them most. There have also been cases in which spouses have fought for a family pet out of anger or retaliation, only to neglect or surrender the beloved companion once everything is over.
Sponsored by Senator Linda Holmes, D-Aurora, the new law addresses these issues by giving judges the ability to consider what may be best for the animal. In some cases, this may be sole ownership with one party. In others, it may mean “joint ownership,” which could potentially be an option in future cases. Either way, there are a few things that divorcing parties should know before pursuing a divorce involving a pet ownership dispute.
Divorcing with Pets in 2018
Although statistics indicate that most divorce disputes over animals involve dogs, the pet ownership law may apply to any pet that is not a service animal. Divorcing parties can use the law to help them navigate an arrangement that may work best for their family (such as “shared custody” that suits their lifestyle or needs) during a mediated divorce, or they can litigate the matter if mediation is not an option or the parties are unable to come to an agreement. If litigated, the ownership of a pet will be determined using a variety of factors, including who:
- Spends the most quality time with the pet;
- Takes the animal for veterinarian appointments and vaccinations;
- Feeds and walks the pet most often;
- Trained (or is training) the animal; and
- Handles the day-to-day care.
Unfortunately, animals are unable to give testimony to their care and owners may struggle with knowing how to present their side of the case. As such, the pet may still be at risk in a divorce – especially if the parties attempt to divorce without the assistance of an attorney.
Contact Our Wheaton Divorce Lawyers
If you are planning on filing for divorce and have a pet, contact Davi Law Group, LLC for assistance. Our seasoned Wheaton divorce lawyers can assist you with establishing proof of your bond with the animal in question. No matter what the situation, we will aggressively pursue the most favorable outcome possible. Learn more by scheduling a personalized consultation. Call 630-580-6373 today.