Custody of Pets in Divorce – New for 2018
Pets, known as “companion animals” in the law, have been traditionally considered nothing more than personal property, the same as household goods or vehicles. But, few people have the strong emotional bond with a piece of furniture or SUV that they do with their furry friend. Starting January 1, 2018, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act has been amended to permit the Court to consider the well-being of the animal when allocating ownership and responsibility for pets. Such allocations can be placed solely with one party, or shared jointly between both parties.
As pets are still considered property, to be divided with other assets in the divorce, the statutory amendment does not go so far as to implement the “best interests” standard of child custody determinations. The amendment does, however, substantially expand the Court’s opportunity to take into account the welfare of the animal.
The Court may potentially consider which party: acquired the animal, registered the animal, shares the closer attachment with the animal, undertakes the day to day care of the animal, facilitates its veterinary care, satisfies the necessary expenses of the animal, and other like considerations.
For more information about how Illinois courts allocate personal property and pets in divorce proceedings, see Section 503(n) of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.