An increasingly contentious issue in Illinois dissolution and separation matters is splitting up the fur children. Citizens of the United States own approximately 78 million dogs and roughly 86 million cats. It is not surprising, then, that during litigation the fur goes flying.
In a case of first impression, the Illinois Appellate Court ruled that courts have no authority to enter any order allowing a soon-to-be-ex visitation, or parenting time, rights with a pet.
In In re Marriage of Enders and Baker, 2015 IL App (1st) 142435, the wife file for dissolution and retained possession of the parties’ two dogs. The husband filed a motion for visitation, which was subsequently granted by the trial court. The husband was awarded temporary visitation with the dogs on alternating weekends, from 10:00am Saturday until 8:00pm Sunday. At the conclusion of the trial, the court awarded the dogs to the wife and the temporary visitation was terminated. The husband appealed.
The Illinois Appellate Court looked to the Animal Control Act, which defines an owner 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.” The Court reasoned that the wife was the “owner” of the dogs because they remained with her when her husband moved out of the marital residence.
One is therefore left to presume that if they want to argue over the custody of “marital” pets, they should stay in the residence with the pets unless or until they receive an order awarding them ownership of the pets.