Family Law & Divorce
Child Related Issues
During a Divorce, Are All Family Pets Considered Under the New Illinois Companion Animal Statute?
The new statute in Illinois regarding pets during a divorce only applies to those that are determined to be companion animals. The law does not expressly define a companion animal, but it does specifically exclude service animals. If the parties cannot agree, the court will determine if an animal should be considered a companion animal.
The recently-amended Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) gives divorce courts the power to “allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal of the parties.” The IMDMA does not, however, provide a definition for a “companion animal.” The law does expressly state that a companion animal does not include a service animal as defined in a separate law called the Humane Care for Animals Act. A court’s definition of a companion animal may also be based on that same law.
The Humane Care for Animals Act defines a companion animal as “an animal that is commonly considered to be, or is considered by the owner to be, a pet.” The Act also provides that companion animals include but are not limited to dogs, cats, and horses.
Using this definition of a companion animal, virtually any animal that you treat as a pet can be considered under the amended divorce statute. If you can demonstrate that you, as the owner, consider an animal to be a pet, the court is likely to determine that the animal is a companion animal.
Unfortunately, the courts are not always predictable, especially during divorce proceedings. That is why you need an experienced attorney who can help you present your case clearly and efficiently. Contact MKFM Law to schedule a confidential consultation at either of our two office locations. Call 630-665-7300 today. Our firm represents clients in and around DuPage County, Kane County, and the rest of Northern Illinois.
What Is Considered When Determining Who Will Care for Pets After Divorce?
When spouses cannot agree on how the family pet will be cared for after a divorce, Illinois law now allows the court to resolve the issue. The court will consider which spouse has cared for the pet during the marriage and which spouse is more willing and able to continue providing for the well-being of the animal.
Household pets are often more than just animals. They are part of the family in which they live. A recent update to the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act gives divorce courts in Illinois the authority to “allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal of the parties.”
When making this determination, the court must consider the “well-being of the companion animal.” This means that the court will take into account more than just which spouse took the animal to the vet or who fed the animal most often. The court’s decision must also be based on what arrangement would provide the animal with a stable, healthy, and loving home.
Each spouse’s willingness and ability to care for the animal will also be considered. For example, one spouse may want full responsibility for the pet, but his or her work schedule might not be best for the animal. If the divorcing couple has children who have bonded with the pet, the court may consider the parenting time arrangements as a template for pet ownership and responsibility.
Making arrangements for the family pet is just one of the many important elements of a divorce. If you are a pet owner who is considering filing for divorce, an experienced attorney at MKFM Law can provide the guidance and advice that you need. Contact our office to learn more. Call 630-665-7300 and schedule a confidential consultation today. We serve clients throughout DuPage County, Kane County, and the surrounding areas.
After Our Divorce, How Does a 529 College Savings Plan Factor into Our Child's College Expenses?
College savings plans, including those authorized under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code, must be considered when a court is determining whether divorced parents will be ordered to help their child with college expenses. Any college savings account created before the parents’ divorce is considered to be a financial resource of the child.
According to Illinois law, divorced parents can be required to help their children cover the costs of attending college or other post-secondary education programs. In making a determination regarding such help, courts in Illinois must consider the financial resources and needs of each parent, as well as the financial resources of the child.
Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code authorizes certain savings plans to be created for the purposes of funding post-high school education. These plans—known as “qualified tuition plans”—are afforded tax advantages and are often sponsored by state agencies and individual schools and universities. For example, a 529 plan can be used to “lock in” current tuition rates at a public college for a student who plans to attend that school in the future.
When determining whether to order divorced parents to help their child pay for college, the court will consider money in a 529 plan to be a resource that belongs to the child. Any contributions made to a plan by a parent after the order is entered will be considered part of that parent’s contribution toward the child’s college expenses.
To learn more about a child’s contributions to his or her own college education, please see our FAQ video “Will My Children Be Expected to Contribute to Their Own College Expenses?”
If you are the divorced parent of a child who will soon be headed to college, an experienced family lawyer can help you understand all of your rights and responsibilities. Contact our office by calling 630-665-7300 and schedule your confidential consultation today.
What Is the New Illinois Companion Animal Law?
Thanks to a new law that took effect on January 1, 2018, Illinois courts now have the authority to help families determine who will be responsible for family pets following a divorce. The law specifically refers to “companion animals,” which generally include dogs, cats, and horses. Service animals are explicitly excluded from such considerations.
For many Illinois households, pets are a part of the family. They are loving, attentive animals who are much more than mere property to their owners. Unfortunately, divorce laws in Illinois have historically treated pets much like any other piece of property, leaving many pet owners frustrated and disheartened in the wake of a divorce.
In August of 2017, Illinois lawmakers passed a measure that went into effect at the beginning of 2018. That bill amended the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA) to give courts the authority to “allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal” belonging to a divorcing couple. The new law also requires the court to take the animal’s well-being into account as well.
If you are a pet owner who is facing the possibility of a divorce, you should keep in mind that arrangements for your pet do not need to be left to the court to decide. The amended IMDMA encourages divorcing couples to negotiate an amicable agreement regarding all aspects of their divorce, including provisions for companion animals. At MKFM Law, we are equipped to help you find common ground with your soon-to-be ex-spouse and to develop an agreement that protects your rights while promoting your best interests. Sometimes, however, a negotiated settlement is simply not possible. If this is the case for you, our team includes skilled litigators who will advocate on your behalf in the courtroom as well.
To learn more about our firm and how we can help you come to a suitable arrangement for your pets, contact our office. Call 630-665-7300 for your confidential consultation today.
Will My Children Be Expected to Contribute to Their Own College Expenses After My Divorce?
A child of divorced parents may be required by the court to contribute toward their own college expenses. These contributions may take the form of scholarships, grants, or the child’s wages, as well as funds saved in a 529 college savings plan. The court’s decision is based on the financial situations of both parents and the child.
Under the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act (IMDMA), parents who are divorced or who are going through the process of a divorce may be ordered to help their child with college expenses. Whether such contributions are required and how much each parent must contribute depend upon the financial resources and needs of each parent.
Amendments to the IMDMA in 2016 also require a court to consider the financial resources of the child or student as well. The court has the authority to order the child to contribute toward his or her own post-high school expenses. For the purposes of this determination, a child’s financial resources may include any scholarships or grants for which the child is eligible, in addition to any income generated by the child’s employment. Any money that is being held in a 529 college savings plan is also considered part of the child’s financial resources. (See our FAQ video that addresses 529 college savings plans.)
Illinois law allows the court to order contributions toward a child’s college expenses as a special form of child support for a non-minor child. There are many factors that the court will consider in making its decision, and it is important to know your rights throughout the process. An experienced DuPage County family law attorney from MKFM Law can help you understand your situation and build a case designed to protect your best interests and those of your child. Contact our office by calling 630-665-7300 today.