Law & Daily Life - The FindLaw Life, Family and Workplace Law Blog

May 2013 Archives

Child Custody Over the Summer: Dos and Don'ts

With summer rapidly approaching, child custody is something that many divorced parents will need to discuss. However they choose to handle their child or children's schedule for those three warm and carefree (for them, at least) months, it needs to be addressed.

Because while child custody agreements are typically decided and settled on following a divorce, they can still look a little different in the summer. Here are some dos and don'ts that parents may want to consider:

Facebook 'Hate Speech': Is It Free Speech?

Facebook hate speech has become the topic of concern to the company, after a coalition of women's groups brought some offensive and degrading posts to its attention. In these posts, users made light of subjects like rape, sexual abuse, and domestic violence.

Now, Facebook says it's taking immediate steps to remedy this, with an update to the site's guidelines. Posts containing hate speech will be more quickly alerted to Facebook user operations team members.

If you're on Facebook, chances are you've come across an off-color comment or two while randomly browsing the site. But isn't hate speech still considered speech, and therefore, free speech? Is Facebook allowed to control this content?

Pricey Fine Print: 5 'Hidden' Airline Fees

Summer is here! But before you book that dream jet-setting getaway, watch out for fine print that might be riddled with hidden airline fees.

As any air traveler is well aware, the airline industry is constantly monetizing things that used to be free, so be vigilant.

Here are five airline fees that might be buried in the fine print:

How to Get a Refund from Disneyland Disaster

Getting a refund from Disneyland may not be the happiest task on earth, especially if you’ve been evacuated from the park halfway through your first day.

Mickey fans and Goofy lovers alike were in this predicament after a blast caused by a dry ice explosion caused the park to be shut down for two hours on Tuesday, reports The Associated Press.

Two hours may not seem like an eternity, but when tickets run up to $100 per day, some families may be looking for a refund.

When 'Fad' Diets Go Wrong, Can You Sue?

A pill here, a “master cleanse” there. Fad diets have become a mainstay in our quest for health and wellness. We channel our inner-Jack LaLanne as we swallow supplements, or shortcut diet pills, and try to become our best selves. But sometimes things don’t go as planned and the next thing you know, that detox mix is making you vomit blood. Ah, wellness.

But when fad diets go wrong, can you sue?

Is a 'Service Charge' a 'Tip'? Ask the IRS

It's not uncommon for your bill at a restaurant to come with both a service charge and a tip. Sometimes there's no service charge at all, but still a line for a tip. Other times, neither are there, but one, or both, are expected of you.

To make matters even more confusing: While the service charge seems to be a number that's already calculated, the tip is there for you to calculate, but ... sometimes "suggested" tip amounts are also given.

Are service charges and tips the same? Not according to a fairly recent addendum from the IRS, which clarified the difference.

Student Loan Rates Rising: What Can You Do?

It looks like there will be an increase in student loan rates this coming July, The Huffington Post reports. If there is no action by Congress before June 30, the rates are likely to double.

Under a bill passed in 2007, interest rates on student loans were shaved from 6.8% to 3.4%. While it has since then been extended, that extension is about to expiration at end of June of this year. This means that the rates will revert back from 3.4% to 6.8%.

So, before the commencing of many a celebratory graduation this year, next year, and the years to come, it may be helpful to consider a few options to ensure that you and your child's financial situation is as painless as it can be.

Summer Jobs for Kids: What Parents Need to Know

Parents often push their teenage kids to work summer jobs to keep them from turning into permanent fixtures on the couch or in front of the TV. But there are some legal limits that parents need to know about.

Federal and state child labor laws prevent children of certain ages from working certain jobs. Still, the law can allow teens to make an honest living over the summer while keeping themselves occupied.

How Does Military Leave Work?

A major concern of those called to active military duty is getting their old jobs back once they return to civilian life. An employee who is called to military duty is on military leave, which is basically an unpaid leave of absence.

As we pause this Memorial Day to honor those who serve, here's a reminder about how military leave works:

Top 10 Legal (and Non-Legal) Summer Beach Reads

Before you dig your toes into the sand and sip a cool beverage, don't forget to pack a few summer beach books. From humor to legal history to a children's book about bullying, there's something for everyone.

Here's our list of the Top 10 legal (and not-so-legal) summer beach reads:

If You Brown-Bag Booze, Can You Drink in Public?

That iconic thin brown bag around your store-bought liquor is not in any way a shield from criminal charges when you drink in public.

Not only does the illusion that you might be drinking something non-alcoholic from such a bag not exist, but you can be arrested for even opening the bottle in public.

Here’s a little wake-up call for those under the spell of the brown bag drinking myth.

Traveling With Pets? 5 Laws You Should Know

Traveling with pets? There are some laws you should know about.

For many of us, our furry (or fur-less) little friends are not only that -- they're family. It's not uncommon to want to bring all of our loved ones with us when we jet off, or gas up our cars, to travel somewhere.

Summer is quickly approaching, and many long weekends are ahead of us. This means even more excuses to explore a new place or just take a break somewhere away from home. Here are some pet laws that you may want to know about before you start packing:

Boy Scouts Vote to Lift Ban on Gay Members

In a historic vote Thursday, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) lifted its ban on openly gay scout members.

More than 60% of Scout leaders at the BSA's National Council meeting in Grapevine, Texas, voted for the change, the Associated Press reports.

Allowing gay Boy Scouts is a move that may motivate other private groups to change their stance on allowing homosexual members, although current law does not require them to do so.

What Are Liquidated Damages?

If you're signing a contract, it may contain a liquidated damages clause. But what exactly are liquidated damages?

It's not just social media pariahs like Amy's Baking Company who have to deal with liquidated damages in contracts. More often than not, contracts that involve the exchange of money or the promise of performance have a liquidated damages stipulation.

But depending on how a liquidated damages clause is written, it can potentially be challenged in court.

Top 5 TSA, Airline Complaints Revealed

As summer vacation draws near, travel awaits -- along with potential airline and TSA complaints. So what are the most common reasons for customer complaints?

We can only guess, as most complaints probably go unreported. But for those who take the time to file official complaints, the U.S. Department of Transportation is listening -- and they've compiled the data in public reports posted online.

While the latest report was released in September 2012, it covers complaints filed in July 2012, providing a snapshot of what travelers may endure this summer.

Lesbian Couple Can't Cohabitate: TX Judge

A lesbian couple can't cohabitate, a Texas judge has ruled, citing a clause in a divorce contract that prevents one of the women from having unmarried romantic partners stay overnight.

The divorce contract between Carolyn Compton and her ex-husband contained a "morality provision" that bars overnight stays by unmarried love interests when Compton's kids are at her home, the Dallas Morning News reports.

Since gay marriage is still not an option in Texas, Compton claims this order effectively makes her choose between her children and her new partner.

Is Your Teen Sharing Too Much on Social Media?

Your average teen is on social media constantly, and according to a new study, she may be publicly sharing on Facebook and Twitter with little regard for the consequences.

At any instant, your child may be sharing her thoughts, her GPS location, and even her phone number to "friends" and followers, researchers at Harvard University found in a study conducted for the Pew Research Center.

But while teens may tend to share too much, they're also tweaking their social media habits just a bit, the study found.

Can Parents Kick Teens out of Their Home?

Parents often threaten to kick their children out of their homes, and sometimes they even follow through. But is it legal to do so?

While there might be some disagreement over parenting styles and child rearing, state and federal laws take a very dim view when it comes to endangering or abandoning children — unless the minors are emancipated.

What does this mean for parents?

Legal How-To: Dealing With Noisy Neighbors

Moving into a new house or apartment may not come with a guide telling you how to deal with noisy neighbors, but that doesn't mean that they are not a problem. Noisy neighbors can be distracting, disruptive, and difficult to deal with.

While it may not seem like a difficult task, you'll want to deal with noisy neighbors with caution. Many common and instinctive responses involve anger, calling the police, or ignoring the issue.

Here are a few easy steps that you may want to consider instead:

Top 10 Summer Road Trip Legal Tips

The weather's getting warmer and the days are getting pleasantly longer, which means it's almost time for summer road trip season.

The chance to hit the open road with loved ones, or even by yourself, is a beloved tradition for many. But before you pack up your bags, gas up, and prepare to gorge on many an indulgent drive-thru feast, it may be well worth your time to keep a few legal considerations in mind.

Here are our Top 10 legal tips for summer road trips:

Illinois Medical Marijuana Bill Awaits Gov's OK

Illinois' state Senate voted in favor of medical marijuana on Friday, leaving advocates of medicinal pot to wait on Gov. Pat Quinn to sign or veto the bill.

If Gov. Quinn signs the bill into law, Illinois will become the 19th state to allow medical marijuana, reports The Huffington Post.

Learning its lesson from past medical pot legislation, the Illinois bill is sophisticated enough to handle future legal issues.

Buzzkills: 3 Places You Can't Picnic With Beer

There's no worse buzzkill than getting to a nice sunny picnic spot, laying out your stereotypical 1950s red-and-white checkered blanket, and cracking open a cold Mickey's big mouth... only to have Johnny Law step in and tell you to pour it out.

Summer is a great time to enjoy a nice refreshing beer (or another chilled alcoholic beverage of your choice). But here are three places where the law might harsh your buzz:

Janitors Claim Language Gap Is Discrimination

A group of Colorado janitors claim discrimination at their workplace has led to unsafe and unfair working conditions.

The 12 custodial workers speak Spanish, but managers at the Auraria Higher Education Center in Denver communicated to the workers only in English. That's led to workplace injuries and unfair changes to their work schedules, resulting in pay decreases, the workers' lawyer told The Denver Post.

The janitors' discrimination complaint, filed with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleges the lack of communication in their native language amounts to national origin discrimination. Do they have a case?

Top 10 Legal Tips for New Grads

So you're a new grad, and you've just finished walking across the stage to "Pomp and Circumstance"... or swaying to Vitamin C's "Graduation."

Congrats!

But after the joys and festoonery of graduating have faded and been swept away, it's time to get down to business. Here are 10 legal tips can help you deal with life's difficulties:

5 Winning Ways to Make a Powerball Jackpot Last

Planning to win the Powerball jackpot? If you've already picked out your lucky numbers, you should also cross your fingers in hopes that you don't squander the winnings. Lottery winners are notorious for losing it all, as Business Insider reminds us.

Since you're obviously going to win the $600 million prize, here are five tips to make your jackpot last:

9 Tips on How to Make an Effective 911 Call

Most of us probably assume we know how to make a 911 call. In a high-stress situation, calling 911 should be the least stressful part of dealing with an emergency. But the act of effectively reporting a crisis is not as simple as just dialing 9-1-1.

One can only hope that you'll never have to make such a call (and if you do, that you don't encounter what Cleveland kidnapping victim Amanda Berry did; police are investigating how her 911 call was handled, The Huffington Post reports).

So what should you do (and say) if you ever need to call 911? Consider these nine tips:

5 Reasons Not to 'Buy' a Summer Timeshare

Buying a summer timeshare seems like an easy way to ensure that you'll have an inexpensive way to go on vacation every summer. But it can actually be tangled morass of legal and financial issues.

If you're considering buying a timeshare to get away to this summer, consider these five reasons not to buy first:

LinkedIn Bars Prostitutes, Escort Services

LinkedIn is no longer a friend to prostitutes and escorts, after a change in the social networking site's policies Monday barred legal sex workers from promoting their services on their LinkedIn profiles.

The social media site's director clarified that LinkedIn has never allowed prostitution on its pages, and that this change in policy was an opportunity to make clear "what [the site] will or won't allow," reports NBC News.

LinkedIn may be able to exert some control over the content of its site, but users and those in the legal sex industry are not happy.

Does Child Support End Upon Graduation?

Does a parent's child support obligation end when a child tosses up the hat at graduation? In most states, the answer is usually "yes." Generally, a child support order ends when a child graduates or turns 18.

Of course, "usually" is a far cry from "always."

In some situations, a child support obligation doesn't end the moment the child graduates from high school. This is especially true if the high school graduate is headed to college and/or has younger siblings.

Minnesota Gov. to Sign Gay Marriage Bill

Minnesota is no "flyover" state when it comes to civil rights, as Gov. Mark Dayton is poised to sign a bill into law permitting same-sex marriages. It will make Minnesota the second Midwest state to do so.

The Minnesota gay-marriage bill reframes all marriages as "civil marriages," removes gender from the state's definition of eligible partners to a marriage, and will allow marriages to begin August 1.

Like many other states that have passed marriage bills this spring, Minnesota's proposed marriage law has its own unique legal quirks.

Legal for Your Boss to Take Your Tips?

Is it ever legal for your boss to take your tips? This question hits home for millions in the restaurant industry, along with other service workers; for many, gratuities can make the difference between a living wage and living in poverty.

Generally, the answer is a resounding "no": It is not legal for managers to take a worker's tips. Tips belong to the employee.

But before you raise the issue with your boss, there may be some legal caveats to consider.

Same-Sex Weddings Face Potential Legal Issues

With Delaware now the 11th state to legalize gay marriage, same-sex weddings are going to become more and more common.

But while same-sex marriage might be legal in these states and in Washington, D.C., there are still several thorny legal issues facing gay couples planning a rosy wedding.

For example, a florist in Washington state recently refused to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding, citing religious beliefs. The florist is now being sued over alleged discrimination by both the ACLU and the state attorney general's office, Reuters reports.

Top 10 Summer Camp Legal Tips

Kids across the country are gearing up to pack their knapsacks and head off to summer camp to explore the outdoors and smell like s'mores. If you're sending your soon-to-be stinky kiddies to summer camp, you may not be able to prevent end-of-summer pre-teen heartbreak, but you can take safety -- and legal -- precautions.

Here are 10 legal tips to keep your kids out of harm's way at summer camp:

Moms on Facebook: What's Not to 'Like'?

Much to the dismay of their loving sons and daughters, moms have been joining Facebook in droves in order to keep in touch -- and keep tabs -- on their kids.

In fact, about 1 in 3 mothers are "friends" with their teens on Facebook, the Associated Press reports. While this gives moms a window into their children's and friends' lives, in some cases Facebook use (and misuse) has landed moms in hot water -- and even in jail.

To help moms avoid heartache and legal trouble this Mother's Day, here are some "likes" and "unlikes" about using Facebook that moms may want to consider:

Can Moms Breastfeed on Airplanes?

Breastfeeding on an airplane seems no different than any other place. After all, mothers today commonly nurse in public without a problem. Remember when singer Beyonce was praised for nursing her daughter in a New York restaurant?

The issue of breastfeeding on airplanes, however, has led to some embarrassing and controversial incidents.

Oh Baby: New Moms Face a Bundle of Legal Issues

With Mother's Day around the corner, we here at FindLaw would like to congratulate new moms on their new bundles of joy, and give them a special gift that should come in handy for the next 18 years: a few legal considerations.

We know, with everything else new moms have to deal with, legal issues regarding their newborns are probably the last thing on their minds. But it's always good to be prepared.

Here are five legal tips that may be helpful for all the new baby mamas out there:

Legal How-To: Getting a General Power of Attorney

Getting a power of attorney can be important, especially as relatives and loved ones fall ill or become unable to make decisions for themselves. So how do you go about getting a power of attorney?

A general power of attorney authorizes you to legally take on the affairs of someone else indefinitely, but it can easily be confused with other types of POAs.

By following these steps, getting a general power of attorney will not seem as bewildering.

5 Custody, Visitation Tips for Mother's Day

With Mother's Day right around the corner, moms who don't always have their kids at home might be wondering about Mother's Day child custody and visitation arrangements.

Though every family has their own way of doing things, there are certain steps you can take to make sure your Mother's Day is a fun, flower-filled holiday for everyone.

Here are five child custody and visitation tips to keep in mind this Mother's Day:

Delaware Is 11th State to Allow Gay Marriage

With Gov. Jack Markell signing HB 75 into law on Wednesday, Delaware has now become the 11th state to allow gay marriages.

Echoing the celebration in Rhode Island last week, Gov. Markell marked the historic moment on Twitter: "Congrats to all who were successful in their advocacy efforts," he told his followers, according to The Huffington Post. "Marriage equality is a reality."

Delaware becomes the latest colonial state to allow same-sex marriage, and like Rhode Island, it also makes civil unions a thing of the past.

A Mom's Guide to Resolving Family Legal Issues

We might not have chocolates or flowers for you this Mother's Day, but we here at FindLaw would like to give you something special: knowledge and resources to help you resolve your family's legal issues.

Whether you're a single mom, a stay-at-home mom, or a working mom, chances are you're making important legal decisions every day for your kids, your spouse, your aging parents, and even yourself.

Here are seven ways busy moms can address important legal issues facing the family:

Denied Unemployment? Here's What to Do

Nothing stings worse than being denied unemployment benefits. Well, maybe losing that high-paying job in the first place ranks higher, but this is not an economic climate for moping.

If you are turned down for unemployment benefits, here are three potential courses of action:

Maternity Leave Policies: 5 Things to Look For

Like an early Mother's Day gift, Yahoo's new maternity leave policy, announced last week, is being well received by women in the workforce. But chances are, your employer may not be so generous when it comes to time off and other benefits for new moms.

Yahoo now offers mothers up to 16 weeks of paid time off after childbirth. The company will also give new parents $500 to spend on things such as house cleaning, groceries and babysitters.

For everyone else who doesn't work at Yahoo, what should you look for in your company's maternity leave policy? Here are five questions to ask at work:

Plan B Appeal: Order 'Undermines' FDA

In a move that has disappointed reproductive rights advocates, the Justice Department is challenging a federal judge's order requiring the government to make the "Plan B" emergency birth-control pill available over the counter to women of all ages.

The Justice Department's decision came just hours after the Food and Drug Administration last week approved over-the-counter sales of Plan B to women 15 and older. The FDA's approval was unrelated to the judge's order.

The Justice Department's Plan B appeal doesn't target the FDA. Rather, it takes aim at the federal judge's decision.

Top 10 Legal Issues for Single Moms

There are many single moms out there, including glitzy and glamorous ones. In fact, more than one-third of all American moms -- 36% -- were unmarried in 2011, according to a Census Bureau report released last week. For young moms 20 to 24, more than 60% were unmarried.

Aside from juggling work, child-rearing, and a personal life (that's well-deserved!), there are a variety of legal issues that single moms are likely to face.

Here are the Top 10 legal issues for single moms to keep in mind:

Is It Legal for Your Boss to Read Your Email?

Bosses know that many employees aren't just working on the job, they're also writing personal email. The employer trump card? Monitor employee email activity. But is it legal for your boss to read your email?

Generally, you don't have privacy rights in your emails at work. If you're on your employer's computer system, your employer can monitor your communications, as long as they have a valid reason for doing it.

So what reasons are considered valid?

N.J. Enacts 'Good Samaritan' Drug-Overdose Law

New Jersey is now the 12th state to enact protections for "Good Samaritans" in drug overdose cases, after Gov. Chris Christie signed a bill into law Thursday.

The new law passed in no small part due to the support of singer and New Jersey native Jon Bon Jovi, whom Christie credited as inspiration for signing the bill, reports The Star-Legder.

Now that this law is passed, Good Samaritans can feel free to call 911 to report drug overdoses without fear of legal consequences for the caller or the drug-overdose victim.

Rhode Island Gay Marriages to Begin Aug. 1

Rhode Island's first gay marriages are set for August 1, now that Gov. Lincoln Chafee has signed a bill to legalize same-sex marriage in the state.

The law was enacted almost immediately after it passed the state's House of Representatives on Thursday, with Gov. Chafee proudly saying that "you are now free to marry the person you love," Reuters reports.

With Rhode Island becoming the sixth and final New England state to approve marriage equality -- and the 10th to do so nationwide -- the law brings a long awaited series of benefits and privileges to devoted same-sex couples.

Legal How-To: Fighting Red-Light Camera Tickets

Red-light cameras can be a major pain for any driver who has received a ticket. But there are some potential ways to fight red-light camera tickets on your own.

Aside from the fact that many jurisdictions are now finding that red-light cameras cause more harm than good, to be convicted of a traffic offense without any witness is, generally speaking, ludicrous.

Here's how you may be able to fight your red-light camera ticket and potentially avoid paying a hefty fine:

Ex-Hooker's Daughters Win Money in Estate Fight

It's the untold sequel to "Pretty Woman": A judge has ruled that the young daughters of a former prostitute have a valid claim to a slain Silicon Valley millionaire's estate. But the ex-hooker's estate fight isn't over yet.

Whether the daughters are entitled to half of Ravi Kumra's estate -- which is currently in the hands of his two grown daughters from his recently ended marriage -- is still up in the air, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Though parents most often seek to establish paternity in cases dealing with child support and custody, it can be equally as important when it comes to inheritance.

Fla. Gov. Vetoes Bill to End Permanent Alimony

Supporters of a bill to reform Florida's permanent alimony law say they will try again next year, after the governor's veto killed the measure late Wednesday.

Gov. Rick Scott explained his veto in a letter to the state Senate's president. "The retroactive adjustment of alimony could result in unfair, unexpected results," Scott said, according to The Tampa Tribune.

What exactly did the now-defunct bill call for?

FDA's 'Plan B' Plan Isn't What the Judge Ordered

Women and girls age 15 and over will soon be able to buy the Plan B "morning-after pill" without a prescription, thanks to a new FDA decision.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is approving Plan B One-Step, commonly known as the "morning-after pill," to be sold over-the-counter alongside items like cough syrup and pain relievers.

The FDA's Plan B approval is a big deal in two ways:

Is Online Poker Legal Again?

Internet poker may be back to stay, at least in Nevada, where the first legal online poker website in years launched Tuesday.

But those looking to play a hand or two of virtual Hold 'Em may need to think twice before going all in, as the service is currently only available to Nevada residents, reports the Los Angeles Times.

With new laws allowing for Internet gambling in certain states, what does the future hold for future chipholders?