Most pet owners consider their pet to be like family member. Frequently, when a couple goes through a divorce, we see issues related to the visitation, support, and protection of the family pet.
Many times, couples will agree to transport the pet back and forth between homes or to split the expenses such as vet bills. Any such agreements can be memorialized in writing and entered in a court order as a judgment. However, in Illinois,when the parties cannot agree, there is no law that provides the Court with the authority to order parenting time or custody with the pet owners. Likewise, the Court cannot order the payment of”pet support”.
Illinois first addressed the issue of pet visitation in the case In re Marriage of Enders and Baker, 2015 IL App (1st) 142435. The husband was seeking visitation of the parties’ two dogs that they bought during the marriage. The trial court granted the husband’s request and set a schedule alternating weekendsbetween spouses. However, the Appellate court determined that the trial court lacked the authority to order visitation for pets. The rationale was that, while a pet is ”more than a piece of property”, it is “best for all concerned” to determine which spouse should be solely awarded the dogs.
Similarly, when it comes to payment of support, Illinois courts will not order the payment of pet support. A spouse may be order to pay maintenance (i.e. alimony), which may be used toward to expenses of a pet just as maintenance may be used to pay for any other ordinary living expense.