Who Keeps the Dog in an Illinois Divorce?
There are many painful facets of the divorce process, from dividing up assets and sentimental possessions to arranging parenting time and other parental responsibilities for those who have children together. Many of these tasks take a heavy emotional toll on each party throughout the divorce, especially when disputes arise. Tension that may have already been brewing between a couple often intensifies the moment one of the parties feels threatened in some way, such as discovering the possibility of losing time with their child or being faced with losing a valuable financial investment. The same applies when family pets are involved: Who gets to keep the dog, and who will have to say goodbye?
When Pets are an Extension of Your Family
Many divorcing couples who must also cope with the task of deciding who gets the dog or other household pets when it is time to move out and move on consider their pets an extension of their family. For a majority of pet owners, this is an extremely difficult decision, regardless of who originally brought the animal into the home. Chances are, both parties have spent a great deal of time with the family pet and have shared a handful of special memories, and they likely never imagined they would have to say goodbye under such circumstances. If you have viewed your pet as an extension of your family and are struggling with the thought of having to give them up due to your divorce, you are not alone.
Laws and Other Factors that Affect Pet Ownership Rights in Divorce
Thankfully, in the state of Illinois, there are some laws that do help govern this often touchy issue. For example, in the case of a companion animal, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act allows either party to petition for temporary allocation of sole or joint possession, as well as all responsibilities for the animal. It is important to note that Illinois law does not consider a companion animal the same as a service animal, nor is a service animal considered a regular “pet”.
In general, animal custody disputes are handled through trial court or mediation. The federal government, as well as the states, consider pets property, and pet guardians have the ability to exercise their custodial rights over the animal. This includes, for example, refusal to hand over your dog to authorities, should your ex-spouse send police to collect the animal from your home. You have the option to demand to see a court order or warrant before you surrender the animal, and even in a case such as this, you may have additional rights.
Pet ownership rights are not all black and white. Just as the court considers certain factors in child custody issues, such as the best interest of the child, the court will also consider the well-being of the animal when settling legal ownership and disputes. Certain circumstances do have the potential to work against a pet owner, however, which is why it is important to know where you stand in your particular situation. Acquire the clarification you need and gain insight into the legalities surrounding your pet ownership dispute by consulting with a knowledgeable Wheaton, IL divorce attorney today. Call the Davi Law Group, LLC at (630) 580-6373 and ask for your personal consultation.