Senate Bill 1261 was filed on March 29, 2017 by Illinois Senator Linda Holmes. As of today’s date, May 3, 2017, it has passed the Illinois Senate and is on its way to the Illinois House.
It would revise the following sections of the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage Act:
1. 750 ILCS 5/452 deals with parties together filing a joint petition for dissolution of their marriage.
750 ILCS 5/452 new (k): The parties have executed a written agreement allocating ownership of and responsibility for any companion animals owned by the parties.

This may not seem significant, but some judges do and did not allow for agreements related to animals. If the parties needed to go back to court, some courts have been reluctant to take up valuable court time over pets. Now, the parties would safely be able to include an agreement about their pet in the final agreement.

2. 750 ILCS 5/501 deals with Temporary Relief before the divorce is granted.
750 ILCS 5/502 new (f): Companion Animals. Either party may petition or move for the temporary allocation of sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal jointly owned by the parties. In issuing an order under this subsection, the court shall take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal.
Judges have the power to issue Orders of Protection which protect pets from abuse. Now, the
court would have more power to make orders regarding pets during the case.
3. 750 ILCS 5/503 deals with decisions about the division of property between the parties.
750 ILCS 5/503 new (n): If the court finds that a companion animal of the parties is a marital asset, it shall allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal of the parties. In issuing an order under this subsection, the court shall take into consideration the well-being of the companion animal.

Pets and animals have always been defined as property like a table or a chair in most states (including Illinois). Now, the pet or animal would be treated as unique property, and its well-being taken into consideration.

If you would like to discuss the pending legislation and how it affects your pet or animal issues in a divorce proceeding, please contact Angela Peters.