Category: Family

Pet Lovers Rejoice – Pets No Longer Treated Like Toasters in Illinois

Pet Lovers Rejoice – Pets No Longer Treated Like Toasters in Illinois

Many pet lovers aren’t aware that parties to a divorce may enter into a written agreement allocating ownership of and responsibility for any companion animals owned by the parties. ‘Companion animals” exclude a service animal as defined by the Humane Care for Animals Act. It is important to know this pet custody law applies to divorce cases only and not to what we call parentage or paternity cases (where parties are in a relationship but aren’t married).

Pets are no longer treated as chattel; Illinois recognizes that companion animals are living, breathing beings that deserve the utmost attention, care and affection. Prior to this law, a pet was treated as personal property, like toasters, and awarded to a party typically without any provisions for visitation by the other party, who would pay for the pet’s expenses, whether the pet could be shared by the parties and whether the pet could travel with the children between their parent’s houses. Also, with this law, Judges have the power to allocate the sole or joint ownership of and responsibility for a companion animal considering the well-being of the companion animal when the parties cannot agree.

The great news for pet owners is they can memorialize in writing their agreement in the form of a pet custody agreement addressing ownership of and responsibility for pets, which then makes that agreement enforceable in court. Consequences that can arise where there is no pet custody agreement in place include one spouse demanding the pet out of spite, the family pet could be taken away from the children, pets may need to be put up for adoption after the divorce and pets who grew up together may be separated.

Pet custody agreements are legal documents very much like child custody agreements. The parties to a divorce with a pet have quite a bit of flexibility when carving out an agreement. Pet custody agreements can address who will own the pet after the divorce (sole vs. joint ownership), where the pet will primarily live (custody), how major decisions will be made for the pet (like medical care), who will pay for the pet’s expenses, a visitation schedule for the party not the primary custodial parent and limitations on transfer of ownership of the pet.

If you are a pet owner thinking about or going through a divorce, call Nicholas J. Galasso at 630-949-2061 or access our website at to schedule a free consultation. Let us help you protect your relationship with your pet and prepare a pet custody agreement that best serves you and your pet.

Paid Family Leave Coming to Illinois?

HB 9 Seeks to Create the Paid Family Leave Act in Illinois

The Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA) provides eligible workers with a federal entitlement to unpaid leave for a limited set of family caregiving needs.[i]   In short, FMLA merely provides eligible employees with the right to take (unpaid) time off for specified reasons without the fear of losing their job.  There is no federal law in the United States that requires private-sector employers to provide paid leave of any kind.[ii]

As of September 2018, six states and the District of Columbia have created family leave insurance (FLI) programs, which provide cash benefits to eligible workers who take a leave from work to engage in certain caregiving activities.  California, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island have active programs; the District of Columbia, Washington State, and Massachusetts have passed laws creating FLI programs, but those programs await implementation.[iii]

Illinois Representative Mary E. Flowers (D) of the 31st District introduced legislation on November 30, 2018 to create the Paid Family Leave Act in Illinois.  The status and text of the bill, HB 9, may be found here: HB 9 – Bill Status.

As introduced, the Paid Family Leave Act created by HB 9 can be summarized as follows:

  • Applies to private employers with 50 or more employees.
  • Employers must provide six (6) weeks of paid family leave for an employee who takes leave for one of three reasons:

(1) because of the birth of a child of the employee and in order to care for the child;

(2) to care for a newly adopted child under 18 or a newly placed foster child under 18 or a newly adopted or newly placed foster child older than 18 if the child is incapable of self-care because of a mental or physical disability; or

(3) to care for a family member with a serious health condition.

  • These paid leave benefits apply to employees who have been employed by the employer for at least one year, and these benefits apply regardless of an employer’s leave policies.

The legislation as introduced is skeletal and will undoubtedly need refinement before becoming a viable piece of legislation suitable for enactment.

The big unknown at this juncture is how much support there is or will be for HB 9 and its goal of creating a paid family leave program in Illinois.

The United States is the only industrialized nation without paid family leave.[iv]   Paid family leave at the federal level is an issue to watch in the upcoming 2020 presidential election.  The majority of those individuals who have declared their candidacy for the Democratic Party’s nominee for president are proponents of paid family leave.

It is likely only a matter of time before a federal law is enacted that entitles eligible employees to paid family leave.  How soon and on what terms is anyone’s guess.  And time will tell if Illinois joins the minority of states in adopting its own paid family leave program.

We welcome the opportunity to discuss your legal needs and offer a free consultation. Please call Nicholas R. Galasso at (630) 949-2062.



[i] Congressional Research Service Report R44835, “Paid Family Leave in the United States,” updated September 12, 2018.

[ii] Id.

[iii] Id.

[iv] (accessed January 30, 2019).





Paid Family Leave Coming to Illinois?