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

February 2014 Archives

How Common Is Cyberbullying? Survey Says...

A new FindLaw.com survey reveals nearly one in 12 parents say their children have felt the effects of cyberbullying.

In a survey that polled hundreds of adults, FindLaw.com found that 7 percent said their children had experienced some form of cyberbullying. That suggests millions of children have dealt with the pervasive issue.

Still, many more parents may not be aware of how cyberbullying may be affecting their child. Here's a general overview of what parents need to know about cyberbullying and how to deal with it:

Public Sleeping Day: Is It Ever Illegal to Snooze?

Stop yawning and perk up: It's National Public Sleeping Day! There are a variety of creative ways to get your Z's on in public spaces to celebrate the occasion.

But is sleeping in public ever illegal?

The answer may surprise you and be quite the rude awakening.

Top 9 Legal Tips for Your Oscars Party

The Oscars are a great excuse to get your friends together and throw a fabulous party. But social hosts will want to take a few precautions to avoid potential legal drama.

We know you're probably busy with party preps, so here are nine legal tips to make sure your Oscars party doesn't involve any unexpected legal plot twists.

And the "Best Legal Tips for an Oscars Party" are...:

Ariz.'s SB 1062 Vetoed; States Debate Similar Bills

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed SB 1062 on Wednesday, explaining that the bill -- which would have effectively allowed business owners to refuse service to gays on the basis of religious freedom -- "does not address a specific and present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona."

While insisting that she had worked hard to represent the voters of Arizona, Gov. Brewer expressed concern that the controversial bill -- which had been cast as "anti-gay" -- was simply too broad, reports the Los Angeles Times.

What other reasons did Gov. Brewer offer for vetoing SB 1062? And what does her veto mean for states considering similar "religious freedom" bills?

Ariz.'s SB 1062: Gov. Brewer Has 3 Options

Arizona's SB 1062 -- a proposed law which would effectively affirm a business' right to refuse service to gays and lesbians -- is poised to be enacted or vetoed by Saturday.

Gov. Jan Brewer, a Republican, has been pressed by friends and lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle to veto the bill. Her office has received more than 10,000 calls and e-mails about the issue, reports The Arizona Republic.

What will happen in Arizona when Saturday arrives? There are three potential outcomes:

5 Questions to Ask an Immigration Lawyer

For people from foreign countries who want to stay in the United States or become a citizen, you may be wondering if you need an immigration lawyer and how you know whether a specific lawyer is right for you. Although it's not required that you hire an immigration attorney when filing for citizenship or a green card, an experienced lawyer can help clarify laws to make sure that all your paperwork is filled out and filed correctly. If you're facing an immigration-related legal issue -- such as deportation -- you'll also want professional legal help by your side.

If you decide to hire an attorney, here are five questions you may want to ask an immigration lawyer to see if he or she is the right fit for you:

Legal How-To: Copyrighting Your Screenplay

So you've written a screenplay. Before you share it with others, you'll want to legally protect your script by copyrighting it.

While your work is technically copyrighted the moment you create it, certain legal protections exist only when you register a copyright with the U.S. Copyright Office. For example, registration with the Copyright Office is required before you can file a lawsuit for copyright infringement.

A written treatment or outline of a fully developed, unique story should be enough to qualify for copyright protection, and a completed script usually does. Here's a general overview of what screenwriters need to know about the process:

Who Qualifies as an Expert Witness?

These days it seems like everyone proclaims to be an expert in something. But when it comes to court cases, who qualifies as an expert witness?

As TV courtroom dramas show, expert witnesses are usually called in by one of the parties to help jurors understand complicated, technical concepts.

However, not everyone can qualify as an "expert," and not all types of expert testimony may be permitted. Here's a general overview:

Supreme Court Calendar: 3 Cases to Watch in Feb.

With only a few days left in February, the U.S. Supreme Court's calendar includes three days of oral arguments this week -- on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.

Though nine cases are listed on the Court's docket, six of those appeals are set to be heard at the same time.

Here are our picks for Supreme Court cases to watch in this final week of February:

Is Your Confidentiality Agreement Legal?

Do you know whether your confidentiality agreement is legal? A number of issues can render confidentiality agreements invalid.

Common pitfalls in such contractual agreements include overbroad, unreasonable, or unduly burdensome terms. When these terms are not legally sound, they risk making the agreement unenforceable.

Here are three questions to ask yourself to figure out if your confidentiality agreement is valid:

How Do Cell Phone AMBER Alerts Work?

Cell phone AMBER alerts are becoming more common, but they're still catching many mobile users off guard. How exactly do they work?

Sending AMBER alerts to cell phones in a particular area is relatively new, but the system has been in place for more than a year now. Just this week, smartphone users in parts of Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma received such an alert, many for the first time, Wichita's KAKE-TV reports.

Here is a brief overview of the laws and programs which undergird cell phone AMBER alerts:

Is It Legal to Drive With Pets in Your Lap?

Happy “Love Your Pet” Day! To mark this special occasion, pet lovers and annoyed drivers alike may be wondering: Is it legal to drive with pets in your lap?

The answer depends on your state’s traffic laws. At least one state has an explicit statute that prohibits you from holding your pet while driving; in other states, drivers with animals in their laps can potentially be ticketed under distracted driving laws, according to USA Today.

Bottom line: Those with furry passengers on their person could be in for a bumpy ride. Here’s what you need to know about driving with pets in your lap:

5 Questions to Ask When Hiring a Divorce Lawyer

You don’t want to hire a divorce attorney without asking a few questions first. After all, depending on your issues, you may not even need a divorce attorney.

Because divorce litigation can be expensive and exhausting, you’ll want an advocate by your side who is worth every penny.

With that in mind, consider asking your potential divorce attorney these five questions:

Legal How-To: Preparing to Sue Someone

What steps do you need to take when you're preparing to sue someone?

Initiating a lawsuit is a big step, as litigation can be a lengthy and costly process for everyone involved. So before you file a lawsuit, you may want to try to exhaust all other options to settle your claims.

If you do decide to pursue legal action, here are some general tips on how to prepare to sue someone:

How Did Presidents Day Become a Holiday?

Celebrating Presidents Day as a holiday did not come about until around the last four decades, but its roots go back to our first president.

How did we come to celebrate the third Monday in February as "Presidents Day"?

What Do Copyright, Trademark Symbols Mean?

You see copyright and trademark symbols everywhere, but what exactly do they mean? Generally speaking, they put a stamp on your ownership.

Each of these symbols provides notice to the world that you are claiming legal rights in the mark or work. A few may require you to actually register your mark or work with the government.

Here's an overview of what each of these symbols mean:

Should You Scrap Your Will and Start Over?

When is it wise to scrap your will and start over?

As you know, a will reflects a person's wishes for how his or her estate will be handled after death. But because many unforeseen events can happen after a person writes a will, in some situations it may be best to revoke an old will and draft a new one.

Here are some general guidelines to consider:

Va. Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down by Fed. Judge

Virginia's ban on gay marriage was struck down by a federal judge late Thursday night. But the judge placed her own ruling on hold pending an appeal.

U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen ruled that the commonwealth's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage violated the 14th Amendment's rights to equal protection and due process, Reuters reports.

As another state marriage ban falls to a federal court ruling, how does this new case add to the background of gay marriage law?

Get a Different Name Day: Why and How to Do It

It's Get a Different Name Day! As Juliet famously proclaimed to Romeo, "A rose by any other name would smell as sweet." But what if you feel otherwise and believe names carry special significance?

You certainly wouldn't be alone. People change their names for a variety of reasons. And the legal process for doing so may be easier than you think.

Here are a few reasons why people change their names and how you can change yours:

5 Things to Do Before You Get Married

When it comes to walking down the aisle, you'll want to be prepared. While things like color schemes or music for your wedding ceremony may come to mind, there are also a few legal concerns you may want to consider before you get married.

For those planning to pop the big question this Valentine's Day, or for those whose weddings are already set, a legal "to-do" list can come in handy.

Cue the Wedding March, here are five things you may want to do before you tie the knot:

Top 10 Online Dating Tips

Searching for your honey in the buzzing hive of the online world? Online dating can be tough, and even dangerous. In some extreme cases, online dating horror stories have even led to lawsuits.

But with some helpful tips in mind, finding that special someone on the Internet can also be pretty sweet.

Just in time for Valentine's Day, here are our Top 10 online dating tips:

Legal How-To: Looking Up Patents, Trademarks

How do you look up a patent or trademark? As today is National Inventors Day, it's a question many creative minds may be wondering about.

When contemplating a patent or trademark, it's important to conduct a preliminary patent and trademark search to make sure there isn't one that's similar -- or even identical -- to your idea.

Regardless of the reason for your search, there are a variety of ways to search for a patent or trademark.

Gay Marriage to Get More Federal Benefits

The Justice Department has announced it will extend more federal benefits to gay married couples, even in states which do not recognize same-sex marriage.

Attorney General Eric Holder spoke about expanding gay marriage rights at a Human Rights Campaign gala in New York over the weekend. A Justice Department memo issued Monday recounted Holder's HRC address, and affirmed that the DOJ will "recognize that same-sex spouses of individuals involved in civil and criminal cases should have the same legal rights as all other married couples."

What federal rights can gay spouses now expect?

5 Fun Facts About the 25th Amendment

Today marks the 47th anniversary of the 25th Amendment's ratification. So what do you know about the 25th Amendment?

While the more well-known constitutional amendments, like the First and Fourth amendments, get all the attention, the 25th Amendment is significant because it describes what happens if the president dies, resigns, or becomes disabled while in office.

Here are five fun facts about the 25th Amendment that you may not have known:

Is It Legal to Trespass in an Emergency?

It's generally against the law to enter someone's land or use his or her property without permission. If you do, you could be face legal consequences for trespassing.

But there are certain limited circumstances when you can trespass, including emergency situations.

Two commonly used trespassing defenses -- public necessity and private necessity -- may allow you to trespass in an emergency.

Do You Have to Carry ID With You at All Times?

Can you leave the house without your ID? It seems like a silly question to most, but with some shifts in state immigration laws, it has become a serious question.

In a perfect world, you wouldn't need to carry your ID on you at all times. But here's what you might expect in the real world:

5 Questions to Ask a Tax Lawyer

When it comes to choosing the right tax attorney for you, what are five questions to ask a tax lawyer?

Hiring a tax lawyer who’s a good fit for your case and personality is important because you’ll be entrusting them with your legal issues — and we all know that Uncle Sam doesn’t play around when it comes to taxes.

So what questions should you ask a tax attorney? Here are a few you may want to consider:

Spousal Support and Taxes: 3 Reminders

Divorcing couples are often surprised by the interplay of alimony and taxes. Though many couples don't realize it, spousal support carries a number of tax implications.

For starters, spousal support can be either taxable or tax deductible, depending on whether you're receiving support payments or making them. And there may be other considerations as well, depending on your circumstances.

Here are three reminders to keep in mind about spousal support and taxes:

Calif. Egg Law Challenged in Federal Lawsuit

California's egg-production law is being challenged by Missouri's attorney general, who claims in a lawsuit that it may raise costs for Missouri poultry farmers.

Golden State voters passed Proposition 2 in 2008, prohibiting California farmers from confining chickens in a way that prevents the full extension of their limbs or prevents chickens from "turning around freely," beginning in 2015, The Wall Street Journal reports. The law was extended in 2010 to cover all out-of-state egg producers who want to sell their yolky products in California.

Can California legally enforce its laws against out-of-state farmers in Missouri?

How Many Trustees Can a Trust Have?

When creating a trust, how many trustees can you have?

Trusts are estate planning tools that can be used to manage how a person's property is distributed after death, without going through probate. Trustees play an important role in protecting the beneficiary's (or beneficiaries') interests.

So how many trustees should you have? To understand the answer to that question, you'll want to have a better understanding of a trustee's role.

10 Legal Lessons on Facebook's 10th Birthday

In case you missed it in your news feed, Facebook turns 10 years old today. So what legal lessons have we learned in the decade since the site was first launched as "TheFacebook.com"?

A quick look back at our past Facebook-related blog posts suggests users can do with a reminder about how status updates and comments can sometimes lead to negative (and even criminal) consequences in real life.

Whether you use Facebook to keep in touch with friends, promote your business, or to find out the latest news, here are 10 legal lessons we've learned from Facebook users over the past 10 years:

Legal How-To: Getting Student Loans Forgiven

As you try to manage your student loans, it's important to remember that there are a number of loan forgiveness programs out there that you may qualify for.

Forgiveness programs aren't a quick fix, as they take several years to complete. Still, they're a great way to see the light at the end of the tunnel, to avoid defaulting on your loans, and eventually, to help you move on with your life.

Here are a few potential ways to get your student loans forgiven:

Who Doesn't Have to File Income Taxes?

With tax season upon us, you might be wondering who doesn’t have to file federal income taxes.

Whether or not a taxpayer is required to file income taxes depends on your age, filing status, and gross income. It doesn’t matter if you’re unemployed; what matters is if your income (from all sources) is above a certain amount as specified by your age and filing status (i.e., married, single, etc.).

So who must file? And is it a good idea to file taxes, even if you aren’t required to?

Is It Legal to Keep Groundhogs as Pets?

Are groundhogs legal as pets? Not that the movie "Caddyshack" would lead you to believe that groundhogs aren't adorable, but each state has its own specific laws about what kind of rodents you can legally possess as pets.

For groundhog enthusiasts and those clamoring to cuddle with a woodchuck this Groundhog Day, let's burrow deeper into the issue with a general overview of groundhog pet laws.

What to Do If Ex-Spouse Lies About Finances?

Sometimes, ex-spouses lie in court — especially when it comes to money and assets. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, nearly three in 10 Americans admit to financial deception with partners.

For couples seeking a divorce, such deception can potentially be criminal. That’s because lying during divorce proceedings is illegal, and can lead to penalties for perjury.

But what are you supposed to do when a soon-to-be ex lies during your divorce case?