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

November 2013 Archives

What is Virtual Visitation?

What is virtual visitation? In this modern day and age, it shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that there are forms of child visitation for divorced parents that occur via technology.

Virtual visitation is a new trending form of visitation for parents. A parent can now "visit" his or her child through technology portals like Skype, Facetime, or Google video chat.

Do courts embrace this kind of visitation? Is virtual visitation a part of a parent's "regular" visitation rights? Here's a general overview:

7 Tips to Keep Your Holiday Spending in Check

Need some holiday spending tips? With Black Friday underway -- and with Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and even "Mobile Tuesday" just around the corner -- the holiday season beckons shoppers with deals galore.

Before you gas up your car or power on your laptop, though, here are seven tips to help keep your holiday spending in check:

Longest-Married Couple Reveal Relationship Secrets

America's longest married couple recently celebrated their 81st wedding anniversary. For all the hopeless romantics out there, hope lives: John and Ann Betar eloped in 1932, shortly after they met. Sigh.

The Betars are the real deal. They're what "rom com" dreams are made of. But what about the rest of us?

Here are a few questions to ask yourself to figure out when you're ready to take the marital plunge:

Supreme Ct. to Hear Obamacare Contraception Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear an appeal challenging Obamacare's contraceptive mandate based on a corporation's asserted right to the free exercise of religion.

With nearly 100 lawsuits filed challenging this mandate in federal court, the High Court's decision to take this case -- stemming from a suit by craft store Hobby Lobby -- may serve to answer whether Obamacare's contraceptive mandate is enforceable against businesses, CNN reports.

But will the Court also answer whether a corporation can have religious freedom?

Legal How-To: Dealing With Lost, Damaged Luggage

Dealing with lost or damaged luggage during the holidays can be a major hassle. Fortunately, there's a system for working directly with the airline for compensation without filing a lawsuit.

Here are some general guidelines about how to deal with lost or damaged luggage:

Proposing Over the Holidays? 5 Ways to Prepare

Planning to propose to your significant other over the holidays? You're in good company: About one-third of all engagements happen between Thanksgiving and New Year's, as The Washington Post has reported.

So if you're one of the smitten ones ready to pop the question during this especially celebratory time of year, congratulations!

Assuming your partner says "yes" (fingers crossed!), here are a few tips to prepare for what comes next:

Top 10 Holiday Travel Legal Tips

Traveling for the holidays? If so, the last thing you'll want to deal with is trouble with the law.

Millions of Americans are driving, or taking planes, trains, and/or buses to visit friends and family for the holidays. While many accidents are out of your control, it's a good idea to be prepared for some common legal predicaments.

So before you cram all that fruitcake into your bag, here are 10 holiday travel legal tips to take along with you:

What Happens If You Disobey a Flight Attendant?

From refusing to "power down" electronic devices to dressing scantily, passengers regularly get in trouble for giving the cold shoulder to flight attendants' orders.

But legally speaking, what can happen when you disobey a flight attendant?

Unemployed Men Faring Worse Than Women: Report

Unemployed men are faring worse than women as the nation struggles to recover from the recession. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, women have gained back the jobs they lost during the financial crisis while men have only gained back about 70 percent of them, CNN reports.

Why is this? There are a variety of reasons. First, because men lost more jobs than women, there are more to gain back. Another contributing factor is that the bulk of the missing jobs stem from male-dominated industries: construction and manufacturing.

Here are some other key numbers pulled from the statistics, and some tips for anyone -- men and women -- still looking for work:

FCC to Consider Cell Phone Use on Planes

Airline passengers may soon be able to use their cell phones to text or even make calls in-flight, if the FCC follows through with a new proposed rule.

CNET reports that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is set to consider whether to allow the use of cell phones and other mobile broadband services "on airplanes above 10,000 feet."

Is the FCC making the right call with this proposal? That's open to debate, and the general public will soon be able to sound off.

Va. Highway Toll Evader Fights $202K Bill

A Virginia highway toll evader managed to rack up quite a bill: $202,000. The Virginia Department of Transportation sued Jason Bourcier when his bill ballooned from $440 to more than $200,000 over four years, including late fees and interest.

But Bourcier, 33, of Arlington, caught a lucky break when a court shrank the bill to $40,000 (with interest, it's $96,498). Maybe he made a fountain wish with one of the quarters he failed to fork over?

Jokes aside, Bourcier's story is a reminder that failing to pay minor traffic bills can come back to haunt you in a big way.

Ill. Gov Signs Gay Marriage Bill Into Law

Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed the state's marriage equality bill into law on Wednesday, making Illinois the 16th state to legalize gay marriage.

Quinn signed the bill before a packed crowd at the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum, signing the historic legislation on the very same desk Abraham Lincoln used to write his first inaugural address, Chicago's WMAQ-TV reports.

How does Illinois' passage of same-sex marriage affect the national picture of marriage equality?

Considering Cremation? 5 Legal Issues

Are you considering cremation? There are many legal issues that come with that.

While it's not easy to think about one's final days, it's always best to be prepared, especially if you have particular wishes about what happens to your body after your death.

Cremation is a popular option. Many people specify a special manner or location for their ashes to be interred or scattered as a profound way to cap off their life. If you're thinking about cremation, here are five legal issues to keep in mind:

Chicago Speed Cameras: 2,700 Tickets in 1st Month

Chicago's new speed cameras are barely a month old, but they're churning out a red-hot number of tickets.

More than 2,700 tickets and 324,000 warning notices have been issued during the first month of enforcement, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

But has the system had a meaningful impact on Chicagoans with lead feet?

More Seniors Living With Kids, Relatives: Census

Harkening back to a more traditional familial structure, more seniors are living with their children and relatives, according to two new Census reports. If you think it's because of the economy, guess again: It's because of changing demographics.

Here's what's driving the multi-generational household trend:

Legal How-To: Fighting Out-of-State Traffic Tickets

Nothing can ruin a nice holiday road trip to visit the folks like an out-of-state speeding ticket. According to USA Today, "[a]ll 50 states will be stepping up enforcement during the Thanksgiving travel season."

Regardless of when you get one, if you're saddled with an out-of-state speeding ticket, here is a step-by-step guide to fighting them:

After a Tornado, 10 Tips for Insurance Claims

After more than 80 tornadoes ravaged the Midwest and killed eight people on Sunday, homeowners will soon file insurance claims to begin the long process of piecing their lives back together.

Illinois seems to have been hit the hardest, with six storm-related fatalities, the Chicago Tribune reports. At least two EF-4 tornadoes, the second-strongest category, touched down in the central and southern parts of the state.

As tornado victims deal with their devastating losses, here are 10 tips to keep in mind when filing insurance claims for storm-related damages:

Grandparent Visitation: 5 Tips for the Holidays

Calling all grandparents: Do you need some visitation tips for the holidays?

Nothing says family time more than the holidays, and nothing makes for a more joyous occasion than being able to get your cheek-pinching and spoiling on this season.

You may not know this, but grandparent visitation rights are not as straightforward as they may seem. So before you pack your suitcase to the brim with sweets and toys, here are five tips to keep in mind:

3 Keys to a Legally Binding Car Sales Contract

Drafting a legal and fully enforceable car sale contract may seem like a daunting task, but it's actually more doable than you'd think.

Here are three must-have provisions in every car sale contract:

Blind Man's Dog Blamed for Flight Cancellation

A blind man's service dog caused an entire flight to be cancelled, with the airline citing safety concerns. What are the rules for service dogs on airplanes?

Albert Rizzi, a legally blind man who boarded a US Airways Express flight from Philadelphia to Long Island, caused a fracas Wednesday when he was told his guide dog Doxy had to "stay under the seat in front of him during the flight," Philadelphia's WPVI-TV reports.

A confrontation between Rizzi, the flight crew, and other passengers over this rule ended in the flight being cancelled, with many passengers choosing to travel to New York via bus.

Wis. Bill Would Ban Flu Shot Firings at Work

A proposed bill in Wisconsin that would prohibit flu shot firings is coughing up a storm of controversy over whether employees should be required to get flu vaccinations.

It's standard practice for employers, particularly in the healthcare industry, to require staff to get vaccinated against the flu. But if the Wisconsin bill passes, such requirements may no longer be legal in the Badger State.

Canceled Health Plans Revived in Obamacare Fix

Canceled health plans may now be revived under the most recent Obamacare fix. President Barack Obama announced today that health insurance companies may allow individuals with canceled plans to renew them for a year, The Huffington Post reports.

These plans were being canceled because they didn't meet the Affordable Care Act's minimum requirements. This meant possibly tens of millions of folks would've had to scramble to get new insurance coverage; President Obama even apologized for breaking his assurance that Americans would be able to keep their insurance plans, McClatchyDC.com reports.

If you've received a cancellation letter from your insurance company, what does today's announcement mean for you?

Hawaii OKs Same-Sex Marriage; Ill. Pending

Hawaii became the 15th state to legalize gay marriage on Wednesday, with Gov. Neil Abercrombie signing the historic bill after it was passed by the state Senate on Tuesday.

Abercrombie's signing comes 23 years after Hawaii's marriage equality struggle began in 1990, The Associated Press reports. The new law will go into effect December 2.

Illinois had been poised to become the 15th state to allow same-sex marriage, as state lawmakers approved a bill last week. But Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn is not scheduled to sign the bill into law until November 20.

What Is Mortgage Fraud?

Mortgage fraud includes various illegal schemes involving material misrepresentation, misstatements, or omissions that relate to property or a potential mortgage.

In general, mortgage fraud involves two parties: the party providing false information and the party that relies on that information to complete a transaction.

It can be committed by both individual borrowers (fraud for housing) and industry professionals (fraud for profit).

Let's look at five common mortgage fraud schemes:

5 Things You Shouldn't Include in Your Will

Having a will and other estate plans are essential to ensuring your assets pass on to their intended recipients when you pass on.

However, there are certain provisions that don't belong in your will, as they simply can't be enforced under the law.

Here are five of the most common things you shouldn't include in your will:

Top 10 Tips for 11/12/13 Weddings

Happy 11/12/13! Thinking about getting married today? You're not alone -- courthouses across the country are preparing for an onslaught of couples who want to wed on this rare (and easy-to-remember) sequentially numbered day, the ABA Journal reports.

But before you dash to the altar to say "I do," here are 10 tips to keep in mind for your 11/12/13 wedding (or any wedding in general):

Legal How-To: Keeping Trespassers Off Your Property

Property owners often want to know how to keep trespassers off their land, while keeping themselves on the right side of the law.

While there are many effective ways to keep trespassers away, land owners could potentially be held liable if their efforts at property protection cross the line.

Here is a look at some of the most common legal ways to keep out trespassers:

MPAA Wants Piracy, Copyright Curriculum for Kids

Kids download the darndest things. That's just one reason why the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) wants to teach kids about piracy and copyright law, as early as elementary school.

The MPAA is supporting efforts by a nonprofit group called the Center for Copyright Information to create a new copyright curriculum for children. The group's proposal is still being drafted, the Los Angeles Times reports.

But will early anti-piracy education really cut down on kids and young adults' illegal downloads? Here's how the program would work:

How Do Veterans Courts Work?

For many veterans, transitioning to civilian life can at times feel like an insurmountable challenge. While combating a slew of mental health issues, poverty, and substance abuse, a devastating number of veterans wind up in handcuffs.

Fortunately, Veterans Treatment Courts are coming to the rescue of countless vets who feel they are fighting an uphill battle against substance abuse, mental health issues, and a life of crime.

But what is a Veterans Treatment Court?

Uncontested Divorce Basics: 5 Things to Consider

Thinking about getting an uncontested divorce? You'll want to know some basics first.

Many couples who are ready to end their marriage will pursue an uncontested divorce, thinking it's a shortcut to living happily apart for ever after. But it may not be quite as simple as you think to get a "quickie" divorce.

Before you and your soon-to-be ex start down this path, here are five things you'll want to consider about an uncontested divorce:

5 Legal Tips Every Will Executor Should Know

Every will requires an executor to administer the wishes recorded by the testator. That's why choosing an executor is crucial in planning your estate.

But as an executor's role doesn't kick in until after the will maker's death, what should executors (and testators) know about their obligations?

There are some basic principles that can keep this important role from becoming legally complicated or surprising. Check out these five legal tips that every executor worth his or her salt should know:

Top 10 Year-End Tax Tips for Individuals

Need some end-of-the-year tax tips? With less than two months to go in the 2013 tax year, many Americans are trying to figure out ways to maximize their deductions and reduce their tax bills.

You're probably already familiar with a few common strategies, like donating money to charity. But there are many other potential tactics that may work for you too.

Here are 10 year-end tax tips for individuals:

Why Are Child Custody Cases So Expensive?

A growing number of states are realizing that child custody cases are becoming unbearably expensive for many parents.

Connecticut recently formed a special task force to determine why custody cases are so expensive and, more importantly, what to do about it. Many other states are also entering the fray, hoping to find a cost-effective solution to the growing national problem.

Here are a few of the sources behind staggering child custody case costs and what states plan to do about them:

Mom Who Killed Kids Not Entitled to Estate: Court

A New York mother who killed her three children -- but was found not guilty because of mental disease -- is not entitled to a piece of their $350,000 estate, a judge has ruled.

Nassau County Surrogate Court Judge Edward McCarty III said allowing Leatrice Brewer, 33, to reap from $350,000 in wrongful death awards would be "repugnant to decency."

Napoleon's Will Is Sold, but What Does It Say?

The late French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's will has been sold at auction for about $483,000, more than twice the expected selling price, The Associated Press reports.

Though Napoleon's will is dated April 16, 1821, and was written by an advisor, it contains some valuable legal lessons when it comes to estate planning -- even for modern-day Americans.

Here are five things we can all learn from Napoleon's will:

Why Settling Student Loan Debt Is So Difficult

Settling student loan debt isn't as easy as a hospital bill or car loan payment that has gone to collections. Nationwide, many graduates are learning that their student loan debts are hard to shake.

Part of the reason, according to Reuters, is that settling student loans may only be possible when students offer large lump-sum payments, averaging "between 30 percent and 80 percent" of the entire loan amount. With the average student loan debt at $27,000, that means debtors need to shell out thousands of dollars in order to avoid collections.

What else can struggling grads do to settle their loan debts?

Legal How-To: Using Text Messages as Evidence

If you watch “Judge Judy,” then you’ll know that these days, a smoking gun often comes in the form of a smokin’ text message.

After all, 91 percent of American adults own cell phones, and of those, 81 percent send or receive text messages, according to a 2013 study by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

But how do you use text messages as evidence in court — small claims or otherwise? Here’s a general overview:

What Is the Employment Non-Discrimination Act?

The Employment Non-Discrimination Act is poised to pass in the U.S. Senate after years of debate, leaving many Americans to wonder: What is ENDA?

The Senate voted Monday to move forward on ENDA, a long-fought bill that would "prohibit discrimination in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity," CBS News reports.

While ENDA is now closer than ever to becoming law, federal protections for gays and lesbians in the workplace have floundered for almost 20 years.

Texas Politicians Facing Voter ID Problems

As Election Day approaches, Texas' new voter ID law is causing problems for some voters, including some of those closest to the government.

According to The Huffington Post, 90-year-old former U.S. Speaker of the House Jim Wright was unable to obtain a voter ID card on Saturday. The expired driver's license and university faculty ID card Wright presented -- the only forms of photo ID that he had -- were insufficient for the new voter ID law.

Wright isn't alone in his frustration, as this new Texas law has proven problematic for other politicians -- and regular citizens as well.

Is Divorce 'Contagious'? What the Study Really Says

Thanks to a new article by the Pew Research Center, a 2009 study on whether divorce is "contagious" has resurfaced and made a big splash in the media -- even comedian Stephen Colbert has weighed in on it.

The study finds that you may be more likely to get a divorce if friends or close relatives call it quits with their spouses.

Considering the divorce rate for couples over 50 has doubled, it's no surprise why the provocative study has piqued the public's interest.

What Is the USA FREEDOM Act?

What is the USA FREEDOM Act? It's a response to Americans' concerns about privacy and security, and will effectively end the NSA's wholesale data collection by amending the USA PATRIOT Act.

The USA FREEDOM Act, introduced Tuesday by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), would change federal laws which allow agencies like the National Security Agency to surveil American citizens and foreign diplomats.

Here is an overview of what the proposed USA FREEDOM Act would do:

Apt. Complex Sued for Keeping Kids Off Grass

A California apartment complex is being sued for attempting to keep kids off the grass.

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit last week against the owner and staff of Woodland Garden Apartments in Fremont after they tried to prohibit children in the complex from playing in the grassy common areas, Oakland's KTVU-TV reports.

According to the suit, the Justice Department claims that Woodland's policy is in violation of the Fair Housing Act. Five families have so far filed complaints with the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Daylight Saving: Time for Some Legal Trivia

Daylight Saving Time (DST) is a mystery to most Americans, yet it essentially dictates our daily schedules.

With America ready to "fall back" on Sunday, here's some legal trivia you may not know about Daylight Saving Time: