Pet Custody Coming to Illinois in 2018

Effective January 1, 2018, a new Illinois divorce law will let a judge decide who is the best owner for a family pet.  Under the current law, pets are treated as property and are divided without regard to what is best for the animal.  On January 1st, a judge will now be able to consider who is responsible for the day-to-day care of an animal, who buys the pet food, who stays on top of vaccinations, who walks the dog, etc., and what is in the best interest of the animal.  The law does not apply to service animals.  The law will be applied to cases currently pending and any cases filed in 2018.

The law is Public Act 100-0422.  The Act amends the Illinoi Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA).  First, the Act amends section 750 ILCS 5/452 by adding paragraph k.  750 ILCS 5/452 now states that “the parties to a dissolution proceeding may file a joint petition for simplified dissolution if they certify that all of the following conditions exist when the proceeding is commenced:

  • Neither party is dependent on the other party for support or each party is willing to waive the right to support; and the parties understand that consultation with attorneys may help them determine eligibility for spousal support.
  • Either party has met the residency or military presence requirement of Section 401 of this Act.
  • The requirements of Section 401 regarding proof of irreconcilable differences have been met.
  • No children were born of the relationship of the parties or adopted by the parties during the marriage, and the wife, to her knowledge, is not pregnant by the husband.
  • The duration of the marriage does not exceed 8 years.
  • Neither party has any interest in real property or retirement benefits unless the retirement benefits are exclusively held in individual retirement accounts and the combined value of the accounts is less than $10,000.
  • The parties waive any rights to maintenance.
  • The total fair market value of all marital property, after deducting all encumbrances, is less than $50,000, the combined gross annualized income from all sources is less than $60,000, and neither party has a gross annualized income from all sources in excess of $30,000.
  • The parties have disclosed to each other all assets and liabilities and their tax returns for all years of the marriage.
  • The parties have executed a written agreement dividing all assets in excess of $100 in value and allocating responsibility for debts and liabilities between the parties.
  • The parties have executed a written agreement allocating ownership of and responsibility for any companion animals owned by the parties. As used in this Section, “companion animal” does not include a service animal as defined in Section 2.01c of the Humane Care for Animals Act.

The Act also amends 750 ILCS 5/501 by adding paragraph (f) to the situations that a party can ask for temporary relief.  Section 501 now states that “either party may petition or move for the temporary allocation of sole or joint possession of and responsibility for a companion animal jointly owned by the parties. In issuing an order under this subsection, the court shall take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal. As used in this Section, “companion animal” does not include a service animal as defined in Section 2.01c of the Humane Care for Animals Act.”

Next, the Act amends section 502 regarding agreements.  Section 502 now provides that “the parties may also enter into an agreement allocating the sole or joint ownership of or responsibility for a companion animal. As used in this Section, “companion animal” does not include a service animal as defined in Section 2.01c of the Humane Care for Animals Act.”

Finally, the Act amends section 503 which deal with the disposition of property by adding paragraph (n).  Paragraph (n) adds a “well being of the companion animal” standard for courts to use to determine disposition of a companion animal in a divorce proceeding.  Paragraph (n) provides that “if the court finds that a companion animal of the parties is a marital asset, it shall allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal of the parties. In issuing an order under this subsection, the court shall take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal. As used in this Section, “companion animal” does not include a service animal as defined in Section 2.01c of the Humane Care for Animals Act.”

If you are in the need of legal advice regarding divorce, child custody, or a companion animal in a divorce, please call the attorneys at Allison & Mosby-Scott at 309-662-5084 or visit our website at www.allisonmosby-scott.com.