Tag Archives: dogs

How Do Pet Ownership Trends Affect Illinois Divorce Cases?

Wheaton property division lawyer for pet ownershipFor many couples, pets become a part of their family. In fact, couples who do not have kids often treat their pets more like children, caring for them and their best interests as if they were the couple’s own offspring. As a result of this growing trend, the legal system has recently needed to adapt, and when it comes to divorce, pet custody has become a much more complicated issue.

Trends in Pet Ownership

It is true: pets are becoming more and more a part of our families. Your cat might rub its head against you out of warm affection, or your dog might try to comfort you with a lick on the face when you are upset. It is easy to see why pets are viewed as sentient beings like children as opposed to property. Statistics show that this trend is likely to continue:

  • On average, more than half of the households in the U.S. have pets.

  • The majority of pet owners today are millennials, many of whom are childless and, in a sense, use pets as a proxy for children, caring for them in much the same way.

  • The American Veterinary Medical Association conducted a survey that says 80% of pet owners view their pets as members of their family.

The Latest Laws Concerning Pets

For years, pets have been viewed as property by the legal system. This means that during the divorce process, when the judge, the lawyers, and the spouses would consider who should get the pets, they would make such a determination in much the same way that they would decide on who gets a car or a couch. However, due to the recent trends in pet ownership, new legislation has passed that moves the legal system more toward viewing pets as what they are: living, breathing beings who many argue deserve many of the same rights as people. In particular, the following legal decisions have been made recently:

  • Outlawing Animal Cruelty—By 2014, all 50 states had passed legislation making it illegal to be cruel to animals. In November of 2019, a bipartisan bill was signed into law that made animal cruelty a federal crime, a major step forward in moving the legal definition of animals away from mere property.

  • Pet Protection Orders—In at least 34 states, if you suspect abuse toward a pet, you can request that a judge include that pet in protection orders related to domestic violence. This does not just protect the pet against harm; it also proves that pets are no longer viewed as property in the legal system.

  • Pet Custody—In three states, including Illinois, laws have been passed that enable pets to be viewed more like children in divorce cases. In Illinois, the well-being and best interests of the pet should be given thorough consideration when determining who will own the pet, similar to how a child’s well-being and best interests are considered during child custody hearings. In fact, in all three states where these laws have passed—Alaska, Illinois, and California—judges have the right to assign either sole ownership or joint ownership of pets to divorcing spouses. Many other states are considering adopting such laws as well.

Contact a DuPage County Pet Custody Lawyer

If you are considering a divorce, and you are wondering what will happen with your pet, contact a Wheaton divorce attorney at 630-871-1002 for a free consultation. Andrew Cores Family Law Group will guide you through the process and help you ensure that the well-being and best interests of your pets are taken into consideration every step of the way.





Can You Get Pet Visitation Following a Divorce in Illinois?

pet, dog, DuPage County divorce lawyersUnder Illinois law, pets are technically considered property, but any dog or cat owner knows that pets are really more like family members. Because of the fondness that many people have for their animals, it is unsurprising that pet custody becomes a contentious issue in many divorce cases, but it was actually just recently that Illinois courts determined whether divorced spouses have rights to pet visitation the same as they do with children.

Divorce Court Goes to the Dogs

In Re Marriage of Enders was one of the final cases to come out of the First District of the Illinois Court of Appeals in 2015. In the case, the wife filed the initial petition for divorce following 10 years of marriage, during which the couple acquired two dogs. While separated, the wife kept the dogs at her home because the husband was not allowed to keep pets at his apartment. He believed, however, that they would have joint custody of the canines and claimed that his landlord would allow the dogs to visit for short periods of time. After alleging that his ex-wife was denying him any contact with the dogs, he filed a petition for temporary weekend visitation, which was granted by the trial court. The wife appealed.

The Best Interest of the Dog?

Having never dealt with this issue in Illinois before, the court looked to a similar case out of New York that considered whether to implement a “best interest of the dog” standard for custody that would determine custody similar to how child custody is decided. While the court recognized that pets are far more important to people than mere property, it also realized that opening the door to visitation would only mean “endless litigation” about the issue, as many child custody cases do. The court also declined to adopt the husband’s “best interest of the parties” standard for determining pet visitation.

Instead, the court simply looked to the Illinois Animal Control Act, 510 ILCS 5/2.16, and its definition of pet ownership as “any person having a right of property in an animal, or who keeps or harbors an animal, or who has it in his care, or acts as its custodian.” Finding that the wife had been the custodian of the dogs since the separation, the court held that she was, in fact, the owner and the husband had no right to visitation.

While this result is, no doubt, a blow to many people hoping to see their pets following a divorce, it does not preclude coming to a pet visitation agreement on your own with a former spouse. It merely means that an Illinois court will not order a party to allow pet visitation.

Contact an Experienced Attorney

Divorce is difficult, and it only becomes harder when it is time to determine who gets custody of pets. An experienced attorney can fight to protect your interests and get your fair share of marital property, including pets. Contact our compassionate DuPage County family law attorneys today for a consultation.