The parties to a divorce can now include a written agreement about ownership and responsibility for any domestic animals that they own.  Service animals are not included. Or, they can have the Judge make the decision at a hearing or trial.

The parties can file for sole or joint ownership and responsibility of any domestic animal that they own.  But, the pet must be a marital asset first.  The pet cannot be the property of one party only. This can be for the time period while the case is pending in court or when the case is resolved.

The new law now states that the court shall consider the well-being of that animal.  In the recent past, pets and animals were merely considered property. Now, at least they are property with feelings to be considered.

The parties may also make an agreement regarding these things. In the past, it was tricky to make your own agreement. That agreement might not work out. Judges don’t want the parties coming back to court because of their pet.  It is important to be thorough when these agreements are drafted. That helps the Judge who might be involved again. It also helps the parties when there is a problem of any kind.

The new amendments take effect on January 1, 2018.

Illinois SB 1261, P.A. 100-422 can be found on the General Assembly’s website at