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Mitchell Rosen: Who gets the dog in a divorce? Illinois has an answer.

By in Press Enterprise on January 6, 2018

By Mitchell Rosen

It’s always fun to read the new laws that go into effect on New Year’s Day. I saw an article stating that as of Jan. 1, pets in Illinois will be treated more like children than property in divorce settlements. Therapy or service animals are not included, but regular pets may be subject to being split between divorcing partners in a partial or joint custody fashion.

Actually, in my opinion, this law is long overdue. As a family therapist who is often involved in Family Law custody matters, I have seen parents spend thousands of dollars in court arguing over pictures that are easily copied, pieces of furniture that are not worth all that much and other issues much less important than Fido or Fluffy.

Parents do fight about the family pet, but often the dog, cat, horse or other is lumped in with property and too little consideration is given to the emotional impact of being separated from the pet that greeted you daily, sometimes for years.

Also, not inconsequential are the effects on children when they are abruptly separated from the pets they have sometimes allowed to be their closest confidants. Kids are often told not to talk with anyone about the conflicts at home and some of the time, these kids will pour their hearts out to the one creature who will give them unconditional love — their dog or cat.

Countless times I have seen children with serious problems adjusting to a parent’s new home, and having their pet in their room at night helps them sleep, relax and feel a sense of normalcy. As a child custody evaluator, I would appreciate seeing a box added to the court’s list of concerns that includes pets or animals. It’s not on the standard form I see, but easily could be added. […]    

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