Pets are an integral part of any family with many people considering them their children. Therefore, it reasons that when parties with a pet are getting divorced, emotions can arise when deciding who can keep the pet and who has a right to see the pet.
How will getting a divorce affect the possession of a pet?
A pet that is not a considered a service animal is known as a “companion animal” as defined in the Humane Care for Animals Act.
The Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act states that either party in a divorce action may petition the court for temporary allocation of sole or joint possession of and responsibility for a companion animal jointly owned by the parties.
The act also states that if a court finds that a couple’s companion animal is a marital asset, the court will take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal and allocate either sole or joint ownership and responsibility of the companion animal to the parties.
One will notice that the statute does not use the words “best interests” as is used when referring to allocation of parental responsibilities for children. The Court is, however, concerned for the “well-being” of the pet much like they care about the “best interests” of a child when referring to allocation of parental responsibilities for children. In making its decision on pet custody, the Court is looking to see who has continuously provided care and time for the companion animal.
While for now pets are still considered property under the law, this shows that there is a greater understanding that pets are more than just property and are instead lifelong companions and members of the family.
In addition to the considerations above, a court will also consider addressing expenses for a pet, including uncovered veterinary costs and grooming costs.
Fighting for rights to your pet with your spouse?
If parties cannot decide who should keep the pet, it is best to start gathering the ownership, adoption and/or registration papers and establish who has primarily taken care of the animal such as arranging vet visits and pet care. Essentially, parties should maintain any records they have to show that they have been the primary caregiver, just as if one would for a child.
If you find yourself fighting for rights to your pet with your spouse, contact Kogut & Wilson today to help you explore all options when it comes to your pet.