Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Changes in Illinois Law concerning property purchased before the marriage

Effective January 1, 2016, Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act has undergone many significant changes.  While statutes concerning parenting issues have received much attention in the press, laws on property distribution have also been revamped.

Most notably, the theory of "property acquired in contemplation of marriage" has been wholly eliminated from Section 503 of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act.
Previously, there have been many cases on this issue, all of which now have been nullified by the amendment.

In fact, Section 503(a) now explicitly states as follows, "Property acquired prior to a marriage that would otherwise be non-marital shall not be deemed to be marital property solely because the property was acquired in contemplation of marriage. "

Effectively, the general rule is that if you and your spouse purchased a home after your engagement, but prior to the marriage (and the title to this home was and remains in your spouse's name alone), this property will not be deemed marital.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Pet "custody" and visitation

In a recent case of In re Marriage of Enders, an Illinois Appellate Court for the first time addressed "custody" of a pet.  On appeal, the husband argued that divorce court committed an error in denying him visitation with the parties' two dogs.

The Appellate Court relied on a New York case and statutory definition of a dog owner under the Illinois Animal Control Act.   Because the dogs were left in the care of the wife, under the statutory definition, the wife was the legal owner of the two dogs.  Thus, she was properly granted custody of the two dogs.

Many pet owners will certainly be disappointed with this decision because the court did not award visitation to husband under a somewhat flawed logic.  The Appellate court reasoned that awarding pet visitation would "serve as an invitation for endless post-decree litigation."

Interestingly enough, the court followed New York and declined to use the "best interest" standard, as dogs do not rise to the same importance as children.

As it stands, if the issue of dog custody is not resolved prior to trial, the court will award only "custody" to one party.