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Illinois Appeals Court Upholds Denial of Pet Visitation

 Posted on December 00, 0000 in Division of Property

pets, Lombard family law attorneyThere is little question that family pets have a special place in the hearts of many people. In fact, as many as two-thirds of all American households own at least one dog or cat. Owning a pet, of course, can be very beneficial to both the family and the animal, but what happens in the event of divorce? Does either party have presumed rights to keep the animals or to visitation? In the state of Illinois, the answer is rather unclear as a matter of law, and recent appellate court decision has not really helped to clarify the law’s intent.

Children and Property

According to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act, considerations in a divorce must be made for a couple’s children and the disposition of property. These, obviously, are very reasonable, but, for many families, pets seem to fall somewhere in between. Dogs and cats may not be as important as children–although to couples without children they may be—but they are certainly more valuable than a piece of furniture or artwork. Without statutory guidance, each case must be considered individually.

In Re Marriage of Enders

In December of 2015, a divorce case was brought before an appeals court in Illinois. One of the issues before the appellate court was the trial court’s refusal to grant the husband visitation with the couple’s two dogs. According to court documents, the trial court was forced to look outside of the state for precedent about pet visitation, citing a New York Supreme Court case from 2013. In keeping with the New York court’s decision, the Illinois trial court would not apply a standard of the dogs’ "best interest" which would be similar to the best interest of a child standard. The trial court did recognize that pets are more than household property, however, and issued its ruling based on what was "best for all concerned," including both divorcing parties and the dogs.

The court recognized the wife as the dogs& owner and refused to enter an order of visitation for two primary reasons. First, the man left the dogs under the care of his wife when the couple separated in 2011, effectively making her the owner by default. Additionally, the husband lived in a small apartment not really suited to house two large dogs. The appellate court found no flaws in the lower court’s ruling, explicitly stating the trial court "has the best opportunity to view and evaluate the parties and their testimony."

Protect Your Pets

To avoid leaving your pets’ future to the discretion of the court, you should consider making arrangements with your spouse in advance. Custody and visitation of pets can be included in any prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, as well as in a negotiated divorce settlement. To learn more about any of these options, contact an experienced Lombard family law attorney at A. Traub & Associates. We will help you draft an agreement that addresses not only your needs but those of your furry friends as well. Call 630-426-0196 to schedule an appointment today.


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