The world is increasingly becoming a smaller and more accessible place. Globalization and international employment opportunities have made it common for people to move or be transferred to foreign countries. The increased possibility of living abroad combined with marriage and/or children may result in complex issues. Which country’s laws apply if one parent takes a child out of the United States? What if an international custody dispute materializes?

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Alcohol and substance abuse by one parent are always concerning to the other parent, but when those parents are separated or divorced, there is an increased level of anxiety. A new law, which took effect on December 1, 2019, can help ease the concerns of a parent whose former partner has been convicted of Driving While Intoxicated in New Jersey.

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A shortage of economically attractive men is yet another reason you may need a pre-nup before tying the knot. A recent Cornell University study published in the Journal of Marriage and Family says that one of the reasons the U.S. has seen a decline in marriage is because there is a shortage of men who are “economically attractive.” The study attributes the shortage to various factors, including the economy, which currently has more lower-paying and unstable jobs. Additionally, women are climbing the economic ladder and now have different expectations for a spouse.

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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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