When divorce is in the offing, the family break-up is difficult for everyone, including your pets. Just as divorce upsets a child’s normal routine, the same can be true for domestic animals who are largely creatures of habit. So what happens to Fido after the split?
A new Illinois law that went into effect on Jan. 1, 2018, seeks to take a pet’s well-being into consideration where custody matters are concerned.
Pets as marital assets
If you acquired Fido after you were married, he is a marital asset when it comes to property division during your divorce. The new law softens the stance on pets by viewing them more as part of the family. As Illinois State Senator Linda Holmes puts it, “If you’re going before a judge, they’re allowed to take the best interest of the animal into consideration.”
Making a decision without the judge
Most couples are able to sort out custody of a pet without having to go to court to do it. According to a survey undertaken by the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers in Naperville and Joliet, approximately 30 percent of the attorneys polled said they have seen a decrease in cases involving pet custody within the past three years. If such a case does get to court, it is usually because it has become a contentious matter.
A better solution
The new Illinois law gives a judge more latitude in deciding pet custody. Since pet parents consider their furry friend a family member, a judge can now consider everyone’s feelings, including how the custody decision would affect the animal. Fido might remain with a child and his custodial parent, for example, if removing the animal from that environment would cause distress. On the other hand, the judge might award a childless couple joint ownership of the cocker spaniel they had raised from a puppy and considered their “baby.”
Making wishes known
The issue of pet custody can feel almost as important as child custody, and if you are facing divorce, you are encouraged to make your wishes known to your attorney. Now that the new pet law is in force, those wishes, along with the future happiness of Fido and Fluffy, are being given due consideration.