In the coming months, victims of domestic abuse may have one less deterrent from seeking out necessary help and protection.

Under Senate File 2118, “pets or companion animals owned or held” by the parties to a domestic abuse protective order may be awarded to a protected party, giving them “exclusive care, possession or control” of the animal in question. Though the House has sought (unsuccessfully, to date) to expand this Bill to include personal property of sentimental or emotional significance, it appears both the House and Senate have recognized the concern and fear of those who stay in an abusive relationship rather than subject a pet to the same type of behavior.

To what degree this will impact the ability of parties and their counsel to negotiate no-contact agreements by consent is yet to be seen. Also, could this usher in future legislation that extends protection to other items of personal property that is otherwise addressed in family law Courts? The intent of legislators seems clear –  remove as many obstacles as possible for people who need to escape abusive situations.