By Jordan Levey
A common question that comes up in divorce cases is, “what do we do about our pets?” According to the American Pet Products Association, approximately 44% of American households have a dog and 35% have a cat. Yet until recently, the laws in Illinois were silent as to how pets should be addressed in divorces. Even though our beloved companion animals feel like members of the family, they were treated no differently than items of personal property. This is all going to change next year. Effective January 1, 2018, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (“IMDMA”) will be amended to specifically address companion animals in divorce cases.
Pursuant to Section 2.01(c) of the Humane Care for Animals Act, a “Companion Animal” is defined as “an animal that is commonly considered to be, or is considered by the owner to be, a pet. “Companion animal” includes, but is not limited to, canines, felines, and equines.” The definition of “companion animal” does not include service animals, which are covered under other laws and regulations.
Under the new amendments to the IMDMA, you will be able to seek temporary sole or joint possession of a pet while your divorce case is pending. You can also move for sole or joint responsibility for the pet. In other words, which party will be responsible for paying pet-related expenses and providing pet care while the divorce is pending? In determining whether a party will be awarded temporary possession of and/or responsibility for a companion animal, the Court will consider the well-being of the animal.
In amicable cases that are resolved by agreement, the parties will be able to include provisions in their settlement agreement regarding the allocation of sole or joint ownership of (and responsibility for) their pets.
In cases that proceed to Hearing or trial, Section 503 of the IMDMA will allow the Court to make a finding that a companion animal is a “marital asset.” Consequently, if the parties do not agree as to who should have ownership of the animal, then the Court will be able to step in make a determination. Again, the Court will consider the well-being of the animal in deciding which party should be awarded the ownership of and responsibility for a pet.
The new amendments to the IMDMA will ensure that pets will be taken care of during and after a divorce. Our companion animals will be given the attention they deserve, whether a case is finalized by agreement or by trial.
Here at Team Tzinberg, we are all pet lovers. We understand the important role that pets play in our lives, and we won’t forgot about them in your divorce!
|Huntley Tzinberg||Morty Levey||Pumpkin Grogan|