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

September 2013 Archives

Does Obamacare's Medicaid Expansion Affect You?

Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is set to include more Americans in many states. Many of those in need of health care, however, remain in the dark about Medicaid.

Like Medicare, Medicaid is a federal health care program for those who often have issues getting coverage. But Medicaid eligibility and coverage are vastly different from Medicare.

How will the unique contours of Medicaid look under Obamacare?

How Does Obamacare Affect Medicare?

Obamacare's effect on Medicare is of great concern to the nation's seniors, and rumors are running rampant. But the health care law will actually provide more coverage to those over 65.

The myth about Obamacare ending Medicare is entirely false, as Nicole Duritz, vice president of Health Education and Outreach with the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), explained to U.S. News and World Report. If anything, "Medicare's guaranteed benefits are protected in ways that they hadn't been protected in the past" under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Duritz said.

So how does Obamacare really affect Medicare?

Are you exempt from Obamacare's individual mandate?

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as Obamacare, generally requires individuals to maintain a minimum level of health insurance beginning January 1, 2014. Most of those who choose not to meet the law's requirements will have to pay a penalty.

But among the Affordable Care Act's many nuances are explicit exemptions for certain groups of people who do not have to abide by Obamacare's provisions. So who exactly is exempt from Obamacare's mandate?

53% of Student Loan Recipients Still Paying Them Off

A new FindLaw survey on student loans finds that more than half of all loan recipients are still paying them off. On a larger scale, that means one in six Americans are currently dealing with student loan debt.

For students still in school, loans may feel like a far-off problem to be dealt with sometime in the future. Unfortunately for some, it may take years or even decades before they're able to dig themselves out of debt.

One thing is for sure, however: Those who are dealing with student loans are not alone. What else did the survey shed light on, and what can debtors do about their student loans? Here's what you need to know:

What Is an Obamacare Subsidy? Are You Eligible?

Obamacare subsidies are being discussed as the open enrollment period approaches. But what are these subsidies exactly, and are you eligible for one?

It's true, Obamacare will provide subsidies for many Americans' individual health insurance premiums. But some participants in the health insurance exchange will not qualify.

Here's what you need to know about how Obamacare's subsidies work, and what factors may affect your eligibility:

Mom's Abortion Cited in N.Y. Child Custody Case

A New York judge has allowed a woman's late-term abortion to be used as evidence against her in a high-profile child custody case.

Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lori Sattler ruled that Lisa Mehos, the ex-wife of high-powered investment banker Manuel Mehos, would have to testify about having an abortion.

But why is the abortion evidence relevant to the custody case?

What Is Obamacare's Penalty for No Health Insurance?

Beginning in 2014, most Americans who lack insurance will have to pay a penalty under Obamacare -- a penalty that's set to increase annually for some uninsured individuals.

Obamacare's individual mandate, which was upheld as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012, requires all Americans to retain a basic level of health insurance coverage by January 1, 2014. Those who don't have health insurance will face a financial penalty.

So what exactly are these penalties, and when are they due?

Will 'Text Stops' Make N.Y. Freeways Safer?

Freeway "text stops" will now be gracing New York highways, as a reminder to drivers that texting can wait.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the "text stop" initiative Monday, showing off prototype blue and white signs declaring the distance to the text stop as well as the credo "It Can Wait," The Associated Press reports.

Will these signs help drivers avoid tickets for texting and driving?

What Is a Health Insurance Exchange?

What is a health insurance exchange? The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act's Health Insurance Marketplaces, or Exchanges, are designed to provide an affordable alternative to buying coverage directly from individual health insurers. The exchanges will be open for business beginning October 1, allowing consumers to shop for health plans.

So what do consumers need to know about these new Marketplaces? Here are a few common questions about Obamacare's Health Insurance Exchanges and, more importantly, answers to those questions:

Legal How-To: Enforcing a Small Claims Judgment

How do you enforce a small claims judgment? As good as it may feel to win in small claims court, it's only part of the battle. The fight over collecting your judgment may be just as contentious.

Despite the fact that it's just small claims court, where claims are limited to a certain dollar amount (typically about $5,000 or less), it's often still very difficult to collect payment from the defendant.

As courts usually don't get involved in enforcing small claims judgments, it's generally up to you to collect what's rightfully yours. Here are a few options you may want to consider:

What Is Obamacare? A Legal Overview

What is Obamacare, legally speaking? With open enrollment set to begin October 1, Obamacare is going to be a big part of the nation's health care landscape for the foreseeable future, so it just makes good sense to know what it entails.

Obamacare, also known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, was a bill that was signed into law in 2010. It affects individuals, most businesses, and health insurance companies.

For your reference, here is a general legal overview of all things Obamacare.

New FAA Rules on Electronic Devices Set to Take Off

The FAA is poised to change the rules on electronic devices in flight in order to keep up with the ever-increasing popularity of tablets and e-readers on planes.

An advisory panel for the Federal Aviation Administration is set to convene to discuss relaxing its rigid restrictions for many passenger-popular gadgets, The New York Times reports. A decision by the panel could potentially allow passengers to watch movies and listen to podcasts during takeoff and landing, if their digital devices aren't connected to Wi-Fi.

Could these new rules mean the end of smartphone tyranny in the air?

Do Kids Have a 'Right to Delete' Web Postings?

On the Internet, do kids have a right to delete web postings? They would under a California bill that's awaiting the governor's signature, according to The New York Times.

Legislators in California have passed the first measure of its kind in this country, giving minors the legal right to "erase" their online indiscretions on websites. While Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and other social media sites already actually offer this option to their users, this bill would make it the law.

Gov. Jerry Brown has not taken a public stance on the bill yet. If he doesn't sign it by mid-October, then the legislation will automatically become law, The Times reports. What do kids and parents need to know about this proposed law? Here's a general overview:

Away at College? How and Where Do You Vote?

With a national voting age of 18, almost every college student can vote. But if you're away at school for most of the year and living far from home, how and where are you supposed to vote?

The "how" question is relatively simple: You cast your vote either in person, or by absentee ballot. But the question of "where" depends on several factors, including the laws of the state where you're registered (or hoping to register).

With Election Day fast approaching, the deadline for registering to vote is just around the corner for many jurisdictions. Here's what college students need to know about voting away from home:

In Congress, Fight Over $40B in Food Stamp Cuts

In Congress, a fight over food stamps reached its latest peak after the Republican-led U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill Thursday to cut $40 billion from the program over the next 10 years.

In justifying the cut, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor declared it was "wrong for working, middle-class people to pay" for abuse of the increasingly costly food stamp program, Reuters reports. The vote was 217-210, mostly along party lines.

What could this mean for Americans relying on food stamp assistance?

Same-Sex Spouses Get ERISA Benefits: Labor Dept.

Many Americans in same-sex marriages can now share in their spouses' retirement plans, regardless of their home state, according to the Department of Labor (DOL).

LGBT rights supporters applauded the DOL's decision on Wednesday to adopt what they're calling a "state of celebration" rule -- a rule that recognizes all legally married couples regardless of where the couple currently lives, according to Reuters.

What does this DOL guidance mean for same-sex spouses wanting to share in their partners' retirement plans?

Can You File for Divorce From Out of State?

Can you file for divorce while you’re out of state, or even out of the country? This question comes up from time to time in our Marriage and Divorce forum on FindLaw Answers.

If you’re considering divorce, it’s best to know what your options are, including where you should file your initial paperwork. The issue can get complicated. For example, what if one spouse has moved to a different state during the separation? Or what if one spouse is out of town on vacation or on a business trip and wants to file then?

Here’s a general overview of filing for divorce from out of state:

Facebook 'Like' Is Free Speech: Appeals Court

If you "like" the First Amendment, you're in luck, because a Facebook "like" is protected free speech, according to a new ruling by the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The "like" lawsuit stemmed from Daniel Ray Carter, a sheriff's deputy in Hampton, Virginia, who was fired after "liking" the campaign page of the sheriff's election challenger -- otherwise known as his boss's opponent.

The deputy claimed his "like" was protected by the First Amendment. A lower court "disliked" that argument, but the 4th Circuit -- along with Facebook and the ACLU -- "poked" back.

Starbucks CEO to Customers: Leave Guns at Home

Starbucks' CEO has a "respectful request" for gun-toting customers: Leave your firearms at home, please.

In an open letter, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz emphasized that this is merely a request, and not an outright ban or change to company policy.

Schultz also clarified that, unless a customer is an authorized law enforcement officer, the request applies to everyone -- even at stores in states where "open carry" is allowed.

5 Legal Issues You Can Plan Ahead For

Legal planning may not be something to which you've given much thought. After all, you can't always plan ahead for unexpected things like crime and workplace accidents.

But for plenty of other legal issues that you know you're going to face, you can (and should!) have some sort of action plan in place to address them. Don't worry, FindLaw's got you covered.

Our new Legal Planning homepage is a "one-stop shop" for your legal planning needs. It links you to clear, concise information about important legal issues you may face in different phases of your life. Here are five examples:

Huguette Clark Estate Trial On Hold in N.Y.

A final attempt at a settlement is delaying the scheduled start of the $300 million estate trial of the late Huguette M. Clark, the reclusive heiress to a copper mining fortune.

The New York attorney general's office is trying to broker a settlement, but Clark's distant relatives, who are challenging her last will and testament (which leaves them out entirely), have not been able to find common ground with the named beneficiaries.

To allow time for negotiations, jury selection has been put off until Thursday morning in Surrogate's Court in Lower Manhattan, reports NBC News.

Legal How-To: Declaring Someone Incompetent

How do you declare a person legally incompetent?

This is a common question for those who have elderly family members or those suffering from mental illness, as it can become harder to take care of these loved ones without the proper legal designation.

Here are five general steps to follow to get someone declared legally incompetent:

Legal Limits for Landlords Raising Rent?

Are there legal limits when it comes to landlords raising rent? This question often comes up at the end of a lease term, when a landlord will typically raise the rent if a tenant wants to enter into another rental agreement.

Generally speaking, unless there's a specific law in place (like a local rent control ordinance), there is usually no limit on how much a landlord can raise the rent. But this can also depend on other factors, including the type of lease at issue.

Here's an overview of what tenants and landlords need to know:

For Married Couples, Living Apart May Pay Off

Married couples are living apart now more than ever, and many spouses claim the two-roof strategy not only keeps their marriage fresh but their wallets flush.

Aside from two residences giving each partner the space he or she needs, possible legal binds like joint mortgages or joint tenancy of a large property can make simply paying rent an alluring avenue, reports The New York Times.

Given all the legal benefits of marriage, does living apart make sense?

Immigrant Driver Licenses Get Green Light in Calif.

A new California "immigrant driver's license" bill will allow unauthorized immigrants to obtain a special driver's license by January 1, 2015. The license would be for driving only, and would not be valid for voter registration, the collection of public benefits, or even for use as an ID to board a plane.

It's a major victory for California's immigrants' rights movement. Over the last decade, similar bills failed to pass time and time again.

But as the bill awaits Gov. Jerry Brown's signature, there are both proponents and opponents of stronger undocumented immigrant rights who aren't thrilled about the bill.

Out-of-State Speeding Ticket: What Happens Next?

What happens when you get an out-of-state speeding ticket?

Many of us assume that if we're driving in another state and get pulled over for a speeding ticket, it won't follow us home. Unfortunately, that assumption is wrong. Getting pulled over for a speeding ticket in another state is, in most ways, just like getting pulled over in your home state.

Here's a general breakdown of what will typically happen if you get an out-of-state speeding ticket:

$10 Minimum Wage: Calif. Bill Awaits Gov's OK

California is set to increase its minimum wage to $10 an hour by 2016 under a bill passed by the legislature.

The bill, which Gov. Jerry Brown says he will sign, would increase the minimum wage for hourly workers from the state's current rate of $8 an hour to $9 in July 2014, and to $10 by January 2016.

But what calls for the increase?

Legal to Share Your Netflix Account?

Is it legal to share your Netflix account? If you're among the nearly 30 million Americans with a Netflix streaming account, there's a good chance you're sharing it with friends and family.

But while Netflix seems to be encouraging sharing accounts with its new "profiles" feature, there is no legal guarantee that Netflix won't sue you for sharing.

Sharing Netflix may stand on uncertain legal ground, but here are some basic legal considerations to help you decide if sharing accounts is right for you.

Best Buy CEO's Divorce Forces Him to Sell Stock

Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly's divorce has prompted him to sell nearly $17 million worth of shares in the company. The sale was disclosed in a filing on Tuesday, and a company statement confirmed the sale was to help pay for Joly's divorce settlement, CNNMoney reports.

Joly, who was born in France, has been CEO of Best Buy for a little more than a year. According to the company, this sale represented about 20 percent of Joly's stake in Best Buy.

Aside from selling his stock, however, no other details have emerged about Joly's divorce settlement or what led up to the split. But for those interested in family law (or those who are facing divorce themselves), the settlement raises a few legal questions, such as:

N.J.'s Medical Pot Law Revised to Help Sick Kids

Medical marijuana has new life in New Jersey thanks to a bill signed by Gov. Chris Christie on Tuesday -- a bill which lawmakers hope will assist sick children get to the drugs they need.

The Garden State's new medical pot law does away with a restriction that limited legal dispensaries to only three strains of cannabis. It also allows edible marijuana to be sold to eligible children, reports The Associated Press.

Does this new law open the door for easier access to medicinal pot in New Jersey?

Okla. School Rescinds 'No Dreadlocks' Policy

An Oklahoma charter school board has rescinded a controversial "no dreadlocks" policy that also applied to other "faddish styles" of hair. This action follows the public outrage that occurred when 7-year-old Tiana Parker was told that her hairstyle wasn't allowed at school.

In a 4-0 vote, the board for the Deborah Brown Community School in Tulsa replaced the rule referencing hair with the general statement that administrators "reserve the right to contact parents/guardians regarding any personal hygiene issues that it believes causes a risk to the health, safety and welfare of the student, his or her classmates, and faculty or staff or detracts from the education environment."

Regardless, Parker's parents have opted to send her to another school. Do they have any grounds for legal action?

Man With 27 Kids Jailed After 'Divorce Court'

An Ohio man recently made a big splash on "Divorce Court" when he admitted to fathering 27 kids with 17 women. Yes, you read right: 27 children.

Just two days after his "Divorce Court" episode aired, Nathaniel J. Smith, 39, of Dayton, was arrested and taken to a county jail for failing to appear in court for a child support case. He's since been released.

Smith told the Dayton Daily News he was not aware of the court appearance that he apparently missed -- a consequence, perhaps, of having so many kids to support? Here are a few valuable child support lessons to learn from a guy with 27 kids:

What Is the War Powers Act? What Does It Require?

What is the "War Powers Act," and how does it play into the debate over a potential U.S. military strike against Syria?

As President Obama prepares to address the nation about Syria, lawmakers and constitutional scholars have been arguing about the president's authority to authorize a strike. This is not entirely untread territory; presidents have deployed U.S. forces to foreign lands over the past three decades: in Grenada, Kosovo, and most recently in Libya, The New York Times reports.

In those times, as in this one, the "War Powers Act" has been discussed in the context of limiting presidential power. What exactly does the act require?

Legal How-To: Donating Your Body to Science

Are you thinking about donating your body to science? Sure, it's a slightly morbid topic to ponder and "flesh out" -- but it's important to sort it out before, y'know, it's too late.

Gifting your body to science is a deeply personal decision, but if you've given it careful thought and wish to "pay it forward" to the medical community for giving you a long, healthy life, there are certain steps you must take to ensure a smooth donation.

Here are a few tips on how to donate your body to science:

Online Adoption Swaps May Not Be Legal: Report

Parents wishing to change out their unwanted adopted children for new ones may want to consider the legal -- not to mention moral -- implications before participating in an online adoption swap.

Now 21, Quita Puchalla was traded by her adopted Wisconsin family at 16 to another family in Illinois -- an unofficial swap which placed the teen in the custody of the Easons, a couple who had their own biological children taken away by child welfare authorities years earlier, reports Reuters.

Quita's story is part of a larger network of underground "re-homing" of children across the nation, and many are left wondering: Are online adoption swaps legal?

Are Tenants Liable for Burglary Damages?

What happens when a burglar breaks in to your rented home and not only steals your stuff, but damages property (like the front door) too? Who pays for the damages -- you or your landlord?

While no one wants to think about the unfortunate situation of their home being burglarized, it's something both homeowners and renters alike should consider.

Generally speaking, both landlords and tenants may end up paying for damages stemming from a burglary. Here's an overview of what you need to know:

Illicit Drug Use Over 50 On the Rise: Survey

Illicit drug use by Americans over 50 has dramatically increased, while illicit drug use among young people has declined, according to the latest survey on drug use by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The data was gleaned from 70,000 Americans who were surveyed about their "past month use" of a variety of drugs, including marijuana, heroin, cocaine and prescription drugs (used in "nonmedical" contexts).

The findings suggest a paradigm shift in older Americans' views on drug use -- and particularly of marijuana. Here are a few highlights from the study:

Drafting a Living Trust? 3 Questions to Answer

When drafting a living trust, there are a number of considerations one must make.

A living trust is a popular way to transfer assets to a trust during the trust creator's lifetime -- and to avoid probate proceedings after the trust creator has died. People also create living trusts to reduce taxes, ensure financial privacy, and regulate the use of assets (in case they become incapacitated).

Here are three questions you'll need to ask yourself when drafting a living trust:

Walmart Worker Fired for Anti-Muslim Facebook Rant

A Walmart worker has been fired for anti-Muslim remarks he made on Facebook. Along with a picture of Muslim women shopping at a Walmart in traditional dress, the assistant manager's expletive-laced posting read: "Halloween came early this year... do they really have to f---in dress like that... your [sic] in my country... get that f---in s--- off!!!!!"

Drawing praise for taking responsibility, Walmart terminated the employee, 54-year-old Terry Earsing, from its store in Hamburg, New York.

Employees should take away a few lessons from this worker's debacle.

Zimmerman's Wife Shellie Files for Divorce: Reports

Acquitted killer George Zimmerman may soon see more time in court, as his wife Shellie Zimmerman filed for divorce on Thursday.

Prior to filing the divorce papers, Shellie had told ABC News that the ordeal of the trial had "put a strain on their marriage." Her divorce filing comes a short two months after her husband's acquittal.

What remains for Shellie Zimmerman if she separates from her notorious husband?

Cherokee Dad in 'Baby Veronica' Case Surrenders

Dusten Brown, the biological father in the protracted "Baby Veronica" Cherokee adoption case, has surrendered to Oklahoma authorities for possibly interfering with the visitation rights of Veronica's adoptive parents, Matt and Melanie Capobianco.

In June, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the Indian Child Welfare Act did not entitle Brown to custody of Veronica. But that wasn't the end of the legal battle over her adoption.

Last week, the Oklahoma Supreme Court granted Brown an emergency stay to keep Veronica with him pending further litigation over Veronica's custody, reports South Carolina's WCSC-TV.

However, Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin authorized the extradition of Brown to the Capobiancos' home state of South Carolina for his alleged custodial interference with their visitation rights.

Can Undocumented Americans Become Lawyers?

Today, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the provocative question of whether an undocumented immigrant in California can become a licensed lawyer.

Emotions are running high on both sides of the increasingly pressing immigration issue.

The State Bar of California and the California attorney general are on aspiring attorney Sergio Garcia's side. The U.S. Justice Department, among others, opposes his admission to the bar.

Is Saying the N-Word at Work Illegal?

Sorry Chris Rock and Dave Chapelle, but a federal court in New York found a manager's use of the N-word among blacks in the workplace was sufficiently hostile and discriminatory to warrant damages. The jury in this case awarded $250,000 in compensatory damages to a black employment agency worker, Brandi Johnson, after being subject to an N-word-full tirade by her black boss, Rob Carmona.

But how does the N-word create a hostile work environment?

iPhone 5S Coming, Time to Check Mobile Contract

Apple is poised to announce the new iPhone 5S and 5C on September 10, and with every new smartphone comes a new opportunity to review your mobile carrier contract.

Even if the new iPhone is only a blue or champagne colored version of its predecessor, reports Gizmodo, most cell phone service providers will offer a discounted rate when pre-ordering the shiny tech newness -- so long as you renew your contract.

It may be worth the discounted price to renew your mobile contract, but here are a few things you should review before you sign.

Legal How-To: Breaking a Lease Without Penalty

Have you ever wondered about how to break a lease without a penalty?

Typically, a tenant must abide by a lease's terms until it expires. But contrary to popular belief, a lease isn't always ironclad, and there are a variety of ways to break a lease without legal consequences.

Here are a few potential ways to break a lease without penalty:

Labor Day History: Why We Celebrate Work

Happy Labor Day! Do you ever wonder about the history behind a day that Americans generally like to cram with barbecues, shopping, and the last occasion to wear white for a while?

Labor Day has been a federal holiday for more than 100 years now. The holiday celebrates and recognizes all the workers in this country who are the driving force behind the spirit of this day.

So what led politicians to make Labor Day a national holiday? Here's a general overview of how Labor Day came to be:

Can Schools Monitor Students on Social Media?

Are schools allowed to monitor their students on social media? Middle and high schools in Glendale, California are doing just that. School officials have hired a company to track 13,000 students' online posts on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, and others, paying more than $40,000 a year for the service, CBS News reports.

Glendale's superintendent says the reason behind this somewhat drastic new measure is an emphasis on student safety. It also allows school officials to intervene if students are discussing suicide, violence, substance abuse, or bullying.

What are the legal implications behind this?