A new Illinois law effective January 1, 2018 will allow a judge to decide who will get the family pet in a divorce. Currently, pets such as dogs and cats are treated like any other property to be divvied up in a property settlement agreement. However, the new Illinois law seeks to treat pets less like property and more like the family members they truly are.
When considering the welfare of a pet in a divorce, a judge may question parties in dispute about their true interest in the action. Are the parties thinking about what is right for the animal? Or, could the dispute over who gets the dog be a result of unresolved issues in the marriage?
When assessing the best arrangement for a pet caught in a divorce tug-of-war, it is important to consider factors such as:
- Has one party bonded with the animal as opposed to the other? Does he or she typically take the animal to the vet for checkups or illnesses? Does that person take care of the day to day needs of the pet including taking the pet for walks or providing meals? Does one party interact with the pet on a more regular basis?
- What about the age of the animal? Is it worth subjecting an older animal to adjusting to a new home if a move is required? Will the animal need special care as their age progresses?
- Are there animal friends or children in the home that your pet will have to separate from that will impact the animal’s quality of life?
- Will a move require long distance travel stressful to the pet? And, are there animal related statutes in the new jurisdiction, such as breed specific bans, that may prove problematic?
- Is shared–custody or visiting plans possible? Certainly, a plan that allows the pet to stay in contact with all parties he or she is attached to is ideal.
Questions on Custody of Pets in a Divorce?
Contact an Illinois Family Attorney for Answers
To those of us who share our lives with animals, the new law is a long-awaited acknowledgement that animals are fundamentally different from other types of property in a divorce and should be given special consideration. If you have questions regarding the new Illinois pet custody law or another family law matter, contact the Libertyville, Illinois family law offices of Schlesinger & Strauss LLC for more information today at 847-680-4970.