Most of the posts on my Illinois Divorce Lawyer Blog concern important topics such as High Conflict Divorce, Parental Alienation, Personality Disorders in Divorce and Child Custody, or subjects involving complex financial issues in divorce. Yet, in the past issues have arisen in a few of my cases where the parties owned together a beloved companion animal, such as a dog or cat. Previously, the Illinois Divorce Act (IMDMA) considered companion animals owned by the parties as property, and normally judges would make no orders concerning animals beyond what might be ordered for furniture and the like. Touching on issues in a high conflict divorce, one of my cases last year did involve one spouse threatening to euthanize the family dog as a coercive threat to the other spouse to not to move out.
For 2018, the IMDMA is being amended as follows, to allow the Court to consider, in a sense, the best interests of a companion animal that is part of a marital estate:
Provides that the parties may petition or move for the allocation of sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for any domestic animals owned by the parties. Provides that in issuing an order concerning the allocation of ownership of or responsibility for a domestic animal, the court shall take into consideration the well-being of the domestic animal. Provides that the parties may provide for the allocation of ownership of or responsibility for a domestic animal by agreement.