The Illinois legislature passed hundreds of new laws which take effect in 2018. Among the more interesting is SB-1261, which directs courts to consider the family pet’s well-being before awarding joint or sole ownership of the pet to one of the divorcing parties. Prior to the new law, the Illinois Marriage and Dissolution of Marriage act was silent as to the well-being of pets. Therefore, most courts treated pets as if they were items of personal property such as a toaster or blender. The act applies only to companion animals which were obtained during the marriage and the law specifically excludes service animals. Although the act does not define what constitutes a companion animal, experts agree that the law applies to canines, felines, and equines. The degree to which each owner participates in the feeding, grooming, and veterinary care of the animal are among the facts that courts will likely consider in making an ownership determination.
At the national level, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law on December 22. The act represents a significant revamp of the U.S. Tax Code and it affects a number of deductions, including one for alimony. According to the law, an ex-spouse paying alimony will no longer be able to deduct the alimony payment from their income and an ex-spouse receiving alimony will no longer claim the payments as income. Critics of the law say that the change will lead to an overall decrease in the amount of spousal support received because more cash will go to taxes instead. Proponents of the law point out that alimony should be taxed the same as child support and that divorced people should be treated the same as married couples. Regardless, the federal government stands to gain billions of dollars in the next decade as a result of the eliminated deduction. The new law only affects divorces commenced after December 31, 2018.
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