In some families, pets are viewed as part of the family, sometimes as much as a child would be. Divorce cases are often sticky with pet ownership, considering in most states pets are viewed as property rather than part of the family. Divorcing couples who previously adopted a furry family member are coming to “pet-nup” agreements or having special mediators for divorce proceedings.
Illinois family law judges viewed pets as property in divorce cases until 2018, when lawmakers decided to change the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) to alter how judges come to a resolution as to how pets are allocated in a divorce judgment. A judge must determine whether a couple’s companion animal is a martial asset. If the animal is decided to be a non-marital asset, then the spouse of the pet owner has zero rights to the pet. Service animals are excluded from custody cases, as stated in the Illinois Human Care for Animals Act. If the couple adopted or purchased the pet during their marriage, the pet would be defined as a marital asset, and the court must analyze factors regarding well-being of the pet, relationship each spouse shares with the pet, who spent the most time caring for the pet, and where the children will live (if any.)
Pet custody cases are difficult for the parties involved, especially if both have a strong relationship to the animal. Many divorcing couples are agreeing to pet-nups, a play on and similar to prenuptial agreements, which are agreements that address how property and assets will be divided. Pet-nups determine the amount of time each spouse is granted with the pet, where the pet will live, and who is responsible for the pet’s monetary expenses.
Call Kiswani Law today to discuss your pet-nup or divorce judgment to ensure your rights and your pet is protected.