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

October 2013 Archives

New NYC Law: Must Be 21 to Buy Tobacco

In New York City, the new legal age for buying tobacco products will soon be 21.

NYC's City Council adopted the bill Wednesday. It will take effect six months after Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg signs it into law.

The tobacco industry and retailers that sell tobacco products -- including cigarettes, electronic cigarettes, cigars, and cigarillos -- lost this fight. But they won one significant concession.

FAA OKs Cell Phones During Takeoff, Landing

The FAA has approved cell phone use on planes during takeoff and landing, just as long as they're in "airplane mode."

In a press release issued Thursday, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced that Portable Electronic Devices (PEDs), which include cell phones, tablets, e-readers, handheld games, and MP3 players, can be used "during all phases of flight." Making phone calls on cell phones, however, will still be prohibited.

It is now up to individual airlines to implement new cell phone policies, if they so choose.

'I Heart Boobies' Appeal: Will Supreme Ct. Hear It?

Remember those "I Heart Boobies" cancer awareness bracelets that a school banned but an appeals court reinstated?

Well, it turns out the battle of the bosom swag isn't over just yet. The Easton Area School District in Pennsylvania has voted to appeal the "I Heart Boobies" bracelet case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

That's right. You may get to hear Justice Antonin Scalia say the word "boobies." And you will giggle.

Some Health Plans Being Canceled Under Obamacare

If your current health insurance plan is being canceled because of Obamacare, you aren't alone.

At least 2 million people, and perhaps as many as 7 million, will not be able to renew their current insurance policies.

Multiple media outlets are characterizing the news as a major political blunder, but industry experts are clarifying the situation and explaining the real reason behind the massive coverage cancellations.

5 Reasons to Remove a Trustee From Your Trust

When it comes to managing a trust for the benefit of you or your loved ones, removing a trustee is sometimes the only way to deal with problems that may arise.

This can be especially important when trusts are used to provide for relatives and dependents both in life and after death.

With the assets held in trust being so crucial, here are five common reasons to remove a trustee from a trust:

Legal How-To: Battling a Neighborhood Eyesore

How can you battle a neighborhood eyesore? Nobody likes unsightly property -- overgrown weeds, peeling and rotting paint, and a general unkempt appearance can detract from the quality of your neighborhood.

Sure, it may not be your problem or your fault, but why should you have to look at it? On top of that, the property value of your own home could go down because of it.

Neighborhood eyesores are a fairly common problem. Luckily, despite the fact that it's not your own home, there are some ways to deal with this issue. Here are a few steps that you can take when faced with a neighborhood eyesore:

49% of Teens, Young Adults Bullied Online: Survey

A new online bullying survey finds that "cyber bullying" is still very prevalent, though it may be on the decline.

About half of teens and young adults -- 49 percent -- claim they had at least one brush with some kind of electronic harassment in 2013, down from 56 percent in 2011.

The survey of nearly 1,300 people between 14 and 24 was conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV. Here are a few more of the key findings:

Co-Signing a Lease? 5 Legal Considerations

Are you co-signing a lease or rental agreement, or thinking about it? If so, there are many legal considerations that you should think about first.

When you co-sign a lease, you are essentially signing the lease as if it were your own. This means that you are exposing yourself to full liability on the lease. You won't be the back-up person, but the main person.

Co-signing a lease for someone is definitely not a decision to make lightly, even though you won't be a tenant. Here are five legal considerations to keep in mind:

Legal to Take, Post Naked Baby Pictures?

From bath time to running through sprinklers, ostensibly cute naked baby pictures have landed a surprising number of parents in legal "hot water" (sorry).

While busting parents for naked baby photos is a relatively new phenomenon with sweeping legal gray areas, there are a few situations in particular that seem to have a magnetic pull on law enforcement.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you post a photo or video of your baby's bum online:

Can Child Support Go Directly to a Child?

One of the most popular questions lawyers receive from noncustodial clients is whether child support can go directly to a child.

Sure, your child may be a toddler, but she's brilliant and probably has impeccable (Monopoly) money management skills.

Sarcasm aside, it's a valid question that becomes particularly pressing when a custodial parent becomes unfit (e.g., develops an expensive addiction) or begins to squander support payments.

If you can't make payments directly to your child, you may be able to pay a third party.

Judge Warns Texas Women About New Voter ID Law

Texas women who plan to vote using maiden or even hyphenated names may experience a hitch or two at the polls because of the state's new voter ID law.

The issue came to light earlier this week when a district judge in southern Texas had trouble casting a ballot.

With early voting already underway in Texas, women of the Lone Star State may want to take proactive steps to thwart potential ID problems.

Social Media Posts Costing Jobs: FindLaw Survey

By now, you'd think we all know that sketchy social media behavior can cost you a job.

But then we hear of people like Jofi Joseph, the National Security Council official who was recently sacked by the White House. Joseph posted highly offensive -- and frankly, lame -- tweets about Washington's movers and shakers under the Twitter handle @NatSecWonk, The New York Times reports.

Apparently, Joseph should have listened to the sentiments of young adults surveyed by FindLaw, 29 percent of whom feared their social media activity would get them fired.

Such fears would be justified as many workers have, in fact, lost their jobs because of unflattering social media antics, a new FindLaw.com survey reveals. Here are some of the survey's key findings:

Hooters Waitress Fired Over Hair Highlights?

An African American Hooters waitress who was allegedly fired over her "unnatural" hair highlights has filed a complaint against the chain for unlawful discrimination.

Farryn Johnson claims she was fired from a Hooters in Baltimore for adding blonde highlights to her dark hair, which the restaurant said violated its appearance policy for "Hooters girls."

Essentially, the complaint asserts that Hooters has different policies and standards for hair based on race.

5 Mistakes Older Job Hunters Should Avoid

Older job hunters -- we all know it's a tough market out there. Even for those who aren't rookies or recent graduates, there are still certain mistakes that should be avoided, as Forbes points out.

The truth is that despite having more experience than younger job seekers, some crucial aspects of job hunting still hold true for older candidates.

Here are five specific types of mistakes that older job hunters in particular should avoid:

Hudson News Mogul's Will Contested by Granddaughter

A new video has surfaced in the fight over the late Hudson News magnate's will, with new evidence supporting his granddaughter's claim that he was incapacitated when he cut her out of his will.

A video deposition of Robert Cohen taken in 2009 (three years prior to his death) has been introduced in Samantha Perelman's case, the New York Post reports. Perelman, Cohen's granddaughter, alleges that her uncle improperly influenced the addled Cohen into cutting her out of "a $600 million inheritance."

The video may make viewers uncomfortable. But will it prove that Cohen wasn't legally fit to make changes to his will?

Casey Anthony Settles Search-and-Rescue Bill

Casey Anthony has finally reached a settlement with a search-and-rescue group that spent about $100,000 looking for her missing 2-year-old daughter Caylee.

Anthony was convicted in 2011 of lying to police, but acquitted in her daughter's killing. The search group, Texas EquuSearch, sued Anthony to cover its expenses in searching for Caylee. EquuSearch brought many volunteers to Florida and claimed that its funds were drained in the futile search.

But despite the settlement, it is unlikely that the group will see any money soon, if at all, because of the fact that Anthony, 26, has filed for bankruptcy.

Legal How-To: Getting a Separation

Do you know how to get a separation? Often, a married couple will consider a separation -- either to try to sort out their issues while apart, or as a first step toward divorce.

Regardless of how it pans out, the fact is that many couples may need some time apart. But note that informally separating is much different than pursuing a legal separation.

Here are the steps you'll need to take when it comes to getting a separation:

N.J. Gay Marriages Begin; Gov. Drops Appeal

New Jersey's first same-sex marriage ceremonies took place just after midnight Monday, making New Jersey the 14th state to recognize gay marriage.

Just hours after those historic same-sex nuptials, New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie announced that his administration would withdraw its legal challenge to gay marriage in the Garden State. Last month, a judge ruled that the state must allow same-sex marriage, following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in United States v. Windsor.

Christie's decision to drop his appeal essentially removes the final barrier to same-sex marriage in New Jersey.

Is It Legal to Ship Wine to Your Home?

Cheers to online retailer Amazon, which is expanding wine delivery to states like New York and Michigan. But savvy wine connoisseurs may be wondering whether it's legal to ship their favorite wines to their doorsteps.

Amazon's wine marketplace now ships wine to 20 states and Washington, D.C., according to Mashable. But state laws still vary widely on which booze-bearing bottles can be shipped in from out-of-state -- or even within the state.

For boozehounds and wine enthusiasts alike, here is a breakdown of the most common state regulations on shipping wine:

Colo., Wash. Pot Regulations Compared

Colorado and Washington state have approved new pot regulations, nearly a year after voters approved measures to allow adults 21 and over to partake in the non-medicinal use of marijuana.

Washington adopted rules for its "legal" marijuana industry last week, while Colorado adopted its rules last month, according to The Associated Press. The rules in both states are largely the same, but there are still some notable differences.

Here's a comparison of some of the new marijuana regulations in the two states that allow adult marijuana use -- keeping in mind that marijuana remains illegal under federal law:

Legal for Kids to Drink Alcohol With Parents?

Whether it’s cloyingly sweet Manischewitz or a can of Bud Light, is it legal for teens to drink with their parents?

The morality of it is certainly a controversial question. Some parents think it’s an effective way to teach kids how to drink responsibly, while others firmly believe it’s a path to alcoholism.

Morality aside, the legality of furnishing a drink or two to a minor depends on the circumstances.

10 'Spooktacular' Halloween Party Legal Tips

It's the most wonderful (macabre) time of the year! Many of you will get into the spirit of Halloween by throwing parties full of cobwebs, candles and Creepy Corpse Cosmos. But remember, hosting an epic Halloween party comes with a slew of potentially spooky liability issues.

Here are our Top 10 Halloween party legal tips:

Widow Gets $109K for Husband's Unused Time Off

An Illinois widow is getting paid for her late husband's leftover time off, as his employer cut the woman a $109,711 check for the unused time.

According to Chicago's WFLD-TV, Jeff Wells had worked for the South Stickney Sanitary District for nearly 40 years before dying in February, leaving almost a full year's worth of wages in unused vacation and sick time.

The district's policy was to roll over unused vacation and sick time, which is why it cut Wells' widow a six-figure check.

Facebook Lets Teens Go From Private to Public

Facebook is relaxing its privacy rules for teens. The move allows teenagers, ages 13 to 17, to post status updates, videos and images that can be seen by anyone, not just their friends or people who know their friends.

But why is Facebook making the change? And what does this mean for teens and their parents?

Chicago's Speed Cameras to Issue 1st Tickets

Chicago's first speed camera will begin issuing tickets today, not just warnings, as a 30-day "grace period" has now expired.

The Windy City's first speed camera to issue traffic tickets is in the Mayfair neighborhood, where drivers caught going 10 mph over the posted speed limit will be fined $100, Chicago's WLS-TV reports. Another 50 speed cameras are also set to get the green light to issue tickets by year's end.

Will Chicago's attempt to use traffic cameras succeed where many other cities have failed?

Erin Cox Fights Suspension for Helping Drunk Friend

Erin Cox, an honor student at North Andover High School outside Boston, faced disciplinary action by the school for picking up a friend from a party who was too drunk to drive.

But just as Cox, 17, arrived at the party, the cops showed up too. That's apparently what got her in trouble with her school.

But did Cox's behavior actually violate the school's zero tolerance policy?

Filing for Bankruptcy? What Forms Do You Need?

Filing for bankruptcy is never pleasant, and it requires a vast amount of forms that can overwhelm even the most organized petitioner.

Don't become crushed under the weight of confusion over bankruptcy forms. Most of the essential forms you will need fall into these categories:

Legal How-To: Modifying Child Support

There are a number of steps one must take in order to modify a child support order. In general, the payment amount may be increased or decreased depending on certain circumstances.

Here's a step-by-step guide on how to modify child support:

Columbus Day History: How It Became a Holiday

Columbus Day has a rich history as a holiday -- even though many of us do not enjoy a day off work.

Enacted by Congress to celebrate explorer Christopher Columbus' voyage and accomplishments, this holiday inspires pride in some... and outrage in others.

How did this controversial holiday come to be?

Pa. School Bans Halloween Over Religious Fears

One school has put a Halloween ban in place after a brewing religious controversy spooked school administrators into denying the October celebration.

The principal of Inglewood Elementary School in Towamencin Twp., Pennsylvania, sent a letter to parents clarifying the district's policy on Halloween. The letter stated in part that the school will not "sponsor or support the celebration of Halloween parades" in order to respect those who believe the holiday has religious overtones, Philadelphia's WPVI-TV reports.

Each principal will be allowed to determine if Halloween is celebrated in the classroom, but why is the district putting a stop to district-wide celebrations like Halloween parades?

Top 5 Legal Tips for Selling Your Car

Selling your old car can be a great way to get some quick cash to finance a new vehicle. But if sellers aren't careful, a used car can become more of a liability than an asset.

To avoid angry buyers and assure legal sales, here are five legal tips to consider when selling your car:

Facebook, Google Privacy Changes Announced

Another day, another Facebook and Google privacy policy change.

Facebook is axing its privacy option that enables users to be unsearchable. Not to be outdone, Google plans to sell users' endorsements as a social marketing tool.

In a nutshell: Get ready for less privacy and more ads -- the best of both worlds! (Sigh.)

FindLaw Survey Reveals Social Security Concerns

About 30 percent of American adults do not believe that Social Security will still be around when they retire, according to a new survey from FindLaw.com.

The largest percentage of respondents -- about 39 percent -- say they're not sure, leaving a mere 31 percent expressing confidence in the future of Social Security.

Regardless of what the future holds, the survey reminds us all about the necessity of planning ahead for your golden years.

Domestic Violence: Should You Consider Mediation?

Mediation is a form of alternative dispute resolution that is popular -- and often court-ordered -- in the child custody and divorce cases. However, for domestic violence victims, resolving a family law dispute with a former intimate partner through mediation can potentially yield unfair outcomes.

Here are a few concerns about family law mediation in the domestic violence context, and the protections that are in place to assist victims:

Difference Between Revocable, Irrevocable Trusts?

As trusts are becoming one of the most preferred means of passing on and preserving wealth, most Americans need to know the difference between a revocable and irrevocable trust.

On the most basic level, the difference between these two trust instruments is control.

Here's a quick overview of what you need to know:

Domestic Violence Trials: 5 Tips for Victims

For victims of domestic violence, a trial can be a daunting experience, causing fresh memories of abuse to rush back and cause emotional trauma to the victim all over again.

To ease the painful and emotionally exhausting process of coming face-to-face with your abuser, here are five domestic violence trial tips you should keep in mind:

Legal How-To: Dealing With Debit Card Fraud

Debit card fraud is an increasing worry for those Americans who continue to use their debit cards as their primary or even sole payment method both in person and online.

Luckily there are legal safeguards that can protect your funds, your credit, and your identity from fraudsters who want to use your hard-earned funds.

Here are some tips on how to prevent debit card fraud, and what to do if it happens to you:

How Do Domestic Violence Laws Protect Children?

Acts of domestic violence can leave a lasting impact on children in a number of devastating ways, either as victims or witnesses of abuse.

A growing body of literature suggests children exposed to domestic violence are more likely than their peers to grapple with a host of long-term difficulties, ranging from behavioral and social issues to emotional and cognitive problems, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Guided by the best interests of the child, many domestic violence laws have provisions in place to protect children. For example:

Is It Legal for Kids to Fly Alone?

Many parents would be worried to let their kids fly alone, but is it even legal to let young children travel by themselves?

In one unusual incident, a 9-year-old boy in Minnesota somehow managed to board a Las Vegas-bound flight alone on Delta Airlines without a boarding pass last week, NBC News reports.

Though the TSA has stated the boy was screened in security along with other passengers, there are other legal worries when children fly alone.

Domestic Violence: Getting a 'Permanent' Restraining Order

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, as the White House announced last week. To potentially help the millions of Americans who live in daily, silent fear within their own homes. FindLaw's Law and Daily Life is producing a series of blog posts on this devastating issue as a resource for victims and their loved ones.

Yesterday, we discussed the nuts and bolts on how to get a temporary restraining order (TRO).

In this post, we'll explore "permanent" restraining orders. Here are some factors to consider:

How Does the U.S. Supreme Court Work?

How does the U.S. Supreme Court actually work? Most Americans may be in the dark about what goes on behind the scenes. As the first oral arguments of the Court's 2013 Term get underway today, it might be a good time for a quick refresher.

Here's an overview of how the U.S. Supreme Court chooses which cases to take, who will write the opinions, and how cases are decided:

Domestic Violence Awareness Month: Getting a TRO

October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, but efforts to stop domestic violence don't just end when the calendar flips to November.

Part of the cycle of violence is that the abuser makes the victim feel isolated. But the law won't leave you out in the cold. If you're ready to get out of an abusive relationship or you know someone who is, there are legal ways to keep the abuser away.

Even if the person you know isn't ready to leave the abusive relationship yet, know that when she (or even he) is, you can provide more than just moral support.

Bicyclists Get 3-Foot 'Buffer' Under New Law

A new California law will require drivers to keep a bicycle buffer zone of at least 3 feet when passing bicyclists.

The law, which aims to protect cyclists from aggressive drivers, will go into effect September 16, 2014.

Until now, California had a less specific standard that required drivers to keep a "safe distance" from bicyclists.

Quitting Your Job? Tips for 'Epic' Emails, Videos

From "epic" interpretive dance videos to brilliantly snarky farewell emails, quitting a job with a prank full of dramatic flair feels like such a good idea -- at the time, anyway.

If you plan on pulling an epic prank when quitting your job, keep these legal tips in mind:

Bankruptcy and Foreclosure: 5 Things to Know

Are you thinking about filing a bankruptcy petition in order to stop a foreclosure?

A foreclosure sale happens when a person has defaulted on her mortgage payments. How is a bankruptcy filing related, though?

A bankruptcy filing often will often delay the foreclosure. Depending on what kind of bankruptcy you file for, you may even be able to save your home. Before you get into it, though, here are five things you'll need to know:

Legal to Buy Prescription Drugs Online?

Buying prescription medications online may be a good way to save a nickel, but is it legal to buy these drugs online?

According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), “[b]uying controlled substances online without a valid prescription” can potentially land you in prison, and it is a felony to import drugs into the country. Even buying prescription drugs from Canada and importing them into the United States is illegal under federal law.

So is it ever legal to buy these drugs online?

International Child Support: How Does It Work?

Child support is not a simple matter, and international child support can get even more complicated. If you had a child with a partner who is living outside of the United States, can you enforce a U.S. child support order against him or her?

International child support is a relatively recent and evolving area of law, so enforcement may be a bit tricky. However, it is possible in many cases.

Here is a general breakdown of how international child support works, and what your options may entail if you need to enforce a child support order outside the United States:

NYC Tenant's Airbnb Fine Overturned by Board

A New York man's $2,400 Airbnb fine was overturned by a New York City regulatory board.

Earlier this year, an administrative law judge ordered Nigel Warren to pay a fine after he rented his room in a two-bedroom apartment to a tourist for a few days, via the online booking site Airbnb.

But the city's Environmental Control Board reversed the judge's decision.

Government Shutdown: 10 Things to Know

What should you know about the government shutdown?

In a standoff between President Barack Obama and Republicans in Congress over differences over Obamacare, most of the federal government is now closed for business, Reuters reports.

Until lawmakers reach a deal, what does the government shutdown mean for you? Here are 10 things every American should know:

Legal How-To: 'Signing Up' for Obamacare

How do you sign up for health insurance under Obamacare? State and federal health insurance exchanges are now open from coast to coast, as the first open enrollment period begins under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

Many Americans may already have insurance through work or a private plan, or are covered by Medicare or Medicaid. But for those individuals and families who are uninsured, "signing up" for Obamacare may be the only way to avoid paying a penalty.

So how does an uninsured American sign up for insurance under Obamacare?