Audrey and Matt are young and in love. They have just graduated college and adopted Tenley, a one-year-old shelter puppy. Carol and Jack are in their late 50s and are getting married. Carol raises show dogs, and one of her dogs, Buddy, won multiple prestigious awards for agility. Steve and Jill, both in their early 30s, are getting married once Steve finishes his residency. Jill is an avid horsewoman and they plan to buy a property large enough to accommodate a stable. Finally, Larry and Sarah are getting divorced. They agree that the dog, Riley, should follow the children, which they will share custody of equally. However, in addition to the fact that Larry and Sarah both work and need doggy day care, Larry has substantial travel requirements for his job, which necessitates either Sarah taking Riley more than half the time, or expensive boarding expenses.

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The legal wheel is (slowly) turning toward recognition of companion pets as more than mere “property” in divorce proceedings. The traditional view that family pets are no different from tables or chairs is evolving toward acknowledging of their “special subjective value,” most notably in custody cases but also in divorce cases where no children are involved.

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A short time ago I had a conversation with a lawyer who had been the subject of a custody battle between her parents more than thirty years ago. Later in life, she decided to satisfy her curiosity of what her parents had said to the court, and obtained copies of all the pleadings they filed. In New Jersey, as in many states, very few documents are sealed or confidential, allowing this woman to access all of the certifications, or affidavits, her parents filed.

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According to the National Institute of Mental Health,

  • Approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. (46.6 million) experiences mental illness in a given year. 
  • Approximately 1 in 25 adults in the U.S. (11.2 million) experiences a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 (21.4%) experiences a severe mental disorder at some point during their life. For children aged 8–15, the estimate is 13%.

Not surprisingly, mental health issues come up in the context of a divorce in a variety of ways. They arise when mental health issues contribute to the breakdown of the marriage or relationship. For instance, a partner may suffer from a condition which causes him or her to behave in ways that are detrimental to the relationship. This can manifest itself in aggression, narcissism, and self-centered behavior to the detriment of the other partner or children, excessive spending impacting family finances, to engaging in dangerous behavior with a partner, and/or their children.


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The “D” word is a scary one. However, when considering the idea of a divorce, whether you are unhappy in your marriage, or your spouse has informed you that he or she is, giving into the urge to hide under the covers is a really, really bad idea. Knowledge is the fuel you need to power through this process—from the “I am thinking about it” stage to the “OMG I was just served divorce papers” stage.

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In the recently decided case of Flynn v. Flynn, a New Jersey appeals court was faced with whether to apply New Jersey or Pennsylvania child support law regarding a parent’s obligation to an eighteen-year-old full-time college student. Although Flynn was fact-specific due to the parties’ prior legal entanglements, the decision explores the substantial differences between Pennsylvania and New Jersey with respect to child support.

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Domestic violence exists and is real, and unfortunately, is common. This blog is not meant for the traditional domestic violence victim. The rights of true victims are rightly met with protections from the New Jersey Prevention of Domestic Violence Act, which allow for the implementation of a Final Restraining Order that prohibits contact and the presence of the perpetrator away from the victim.

Instead, this blog is to recognize that not all domestic violence complaints (referred to as Temporary Restraining Orders) are based on legitimate allegations warranting permanent relief with a Final Restraining Order and, moreover, have been used “as a sword as opposed to a shield” by purported “victims” at times notwithstanding the incredible burden Final Restraining Orders carry.

Final Restraining Orders in New Jersey, unlike in other states, are permanent. Many people understand the main purpose of a Final Restraining Order from its name’s literal interpretation, namely, that it keeps one person from being in the presence of or contacting the other person.


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