Millions of American families own dogs, cats, and other companion animals. In many situations, pets are as much a part of the family as any person. We share our homes, our lives, and, often, our own beds with the animals we love. With pets as common as they are in households around the country, it should hardly come as a surprise that many beloved dogs and cats get caught in the middle of difficult divorces. If you are a pet owner considering a divorce, it is important to know what your options may be regarding your furry friends.
Knowing the Law
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) contains most of the provisions governing the process of divorce in the state. The IMDMA, however, does not include any references to companion animals of any kind, meaning that, as far as the statute is concerned, animals are considered property. As such, what happens to dogs and cats in a divorce—when left to the court to decide—may be dependent upon the rest of the marital estate and how it is allocated between the spouses.
When the ownership of a pet is disputed in a divorce, there are several factors that a court will usually consider. The court will take into account when and how the pet was acquired and which spouse was primarily responsible for caring for the animal, including veterinarian visits and day-to-day responsibilities. It is important to realize, however, that determining ownership of the pet is a permanent decision. A recent decision by an Illinois appellate court refused to award visitation to pet owners following a divorce, ruling that courts do not have the statutory authority to do so.
Reaching an Agreement
While pet owners may feel that statutory and case law in Illinois fails to address their needs in a divorce, there is nothing preventing a couple from working out arrangements for their pets on their own. Are you willing to continue sharing responsibilities for your cat? Do you want to have your dog stay at your new home every other weekend? You and your soon-to-be ex-spouse are free to develop an agreement that allows you both to enjoy time with your beloved pet.
If you have questions about divorce and the applicable laws in Illinois, an experienced Kane County divorce attorney can provide the answers you need. Call Bochte, Kuzniar & Navigato, P.C., today at 630-377-7770 to schedule your free confidential consultation with a member of our team. We are ready to help you protect your rights throughout the entire divorce process and beyond.