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

August 2014 Archives

Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'G'

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

Welcome back to Legalese From A to Z, our series highlighting the meanings behind legal terms that may not be familiar to non-lawyers.

Legalese describes the specialized language of the legal profession -- in other words, things only lawyers would say. With the help of FindLaw's Legal Dictionary, let's take a closer look at five of these terms that begin with the letter "G":

Calif. 'Yes Means Yes' Sexual Assault Bill Awaits Gov.'s Signature

California lawmakers approved a groundbreaking "Yes Means Yes" bill on Thursday, in an attempt to fight the growing problem of sexual assault on college campuses.

The bill must be signed by Governor Jerry Brown before it becomes law, but if/when it becomes effective, all California colleges and universities will have to change their standards. The Los Angeles Times reports that the bill would require "affirmative consent" between college students hoping to have sex -- removing silence or lack of resistance as signs of consent.

S.D. Comic-Con's Moving Because of Court Ruling?

A decision by the San Diego City Council not to appeal a ruling by the Fourth District Court of Appeals may spell the end of that city's annual hosting of what has become a comic book culture institution: San Diego Comic-Con.

The appeals court decision earlier this month struck down the proposed levying of a special tax on hotel rooms around the San Diego Convention Center, where the yearly event is held, reports The Hollywood Reporter. The city had planned to use the money to expand for a $520 million expansion of the convention center.

Why does this news mean we may be seeing the Los Angeles Comic-Con after the convention's contract with San Diego runs out in 2016?

Rideshare Services Uber and Lyft Now Legal in Many Cities, States

Following a vote by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission in favor of the idea last week, Pittsburgh became the latest of an increasing number of cities to share in the convenience, and controversy, of ridesharing services such as Uber and Lyft.

The PPUC granted 60-day temporary authority to operate to both Uber and Lyft last week, after the companies agreed to meet the commission's requirements to operate in the state, reports The Inquirer. Earlier this month, the Houston City Council voted to allow the ridesharing services to operate in Houston after placing their own insurance and access requirements on the companies, reports the Houston Press.

How have these ridesharing services managed to overcome the often substantial official resistance to operating in these and other cities?

Priciest Divorce Ever? $17B at Stake in Harold Hamm Case

An Oklahoma oil tycoon who amassed one of the world's largest private oil empires may soon be known for a more dubious honor: the priciest divorce in history.

Harold Hamm and his wife Sue Ann announced last year that they were divorcing after 25 years. Eight months later, however, the battle of Hamm's earnings over the course of the couple's marriage, estimated at $17 billion, continues in an Oklahoma City courtroom, reports CNBC.

How will the court determine whether the soon-to-be ex-Mrs. Hamm is due a share of her estranged husband's earnings?

Legal How-To: Requesting FMLA Leave From Your Employer

When you're dealing with a major medical problem, either yours or a loved one's, the last thing you want to worry about is work. Requesting FMLA leave can ensure that you're given unpaid time off and that your job is still waiting for you when you return, but you need to give proper notice.

So what do you need to do? Here's a quick legal overview of how to request FMLA leave from your employer:

5 Things an Employment Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't)

Employers often prey on the naivete of employees when shorting them on pay, refusing benefits, or even firing them. An employment attorney can make sure that you're protected from any legal shenanigans your employer tries to pull, as well as clue you in to rights you didn't know you had.

Check out these five things an employment attorney can help you with, that you probably can't do on your own:

Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'F'

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

Some seemingly complicated legal issues are actually fairly straightforward, once you know the lingo.

Known as legalese, the specialized language used by lawyers, judges, and government officials can often make it difficult for laypeople to understand legal proceedings or correspondence.

That's why we're going through the legal dictionary letter by letter as part of our new series, Legalese From A to Z. This week, we look at legal terms beginning with the letter "F":

Is It Legal to Hit Your Pets?

There's a bit of controversy among pet owners about whether its legal to hit your pets.

In most jurisdictions, pets are considered "property" for purposes of determining custody during a divorce, for example. Pets also can't own property, which is why you generally shouldn't try to leave your dog your house in your will.

But do pets have legal protection when it comes to physical discipline?

Bloggers Beware: 5 Legal Red Flags

Setting up a blog can be a great exercise, either as a way to keep track of your latest baking kick or even to bootstrap your fledgling small business.

But you should be aware of some of the most obvious legal problems that occur when bloggers step into the chaotic realm of the blogosphere. The last thing you'd want is for your puppy blog to get you sued or to put your safety at risk.

To keep our fellow bloggers safe and legally sound, we present these five legal red flags for blogs:

Fla. Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down by Federal Judge

Florida's same-sex marriage ban was struck down Thursday by a federal judge, who stated that the law violated constitutional rights to equal protection and due process.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert L. Hinkle found Florida's gay marriage prohibition unconstitutional because it denies gay couples the fundamental right to marry without any legally defensible justification. The Orlando Sentinel reports that Hinkle is the fifth judge to rule against Florida's gay marriage ban in the past six weeks; however, he's the first federal judge to do so, and his ruling is the first to have statewide effect.

What can Floridians expect from this latest gay marriage ruling?

5 Reasons to Keep Baby Pics off Facebook

With the seeming ubiquity of Facebook sharing and the proliferation of high-quality mobile phone cameras, it's easier than ever for parents to flood the Internet with pictures of their babies.

But an increasing number of parents are opting for a Facebook blackout when it comes to photos of their kids, reports The Associated Press. Why are more and more parents choosing not to chronicle their young children's lives on Facebook?

Here are five reasons (including a few legal ones) that you may want to keep baby pics off Facebook:

Del.'s New Digital Estate Law Allows Account Access After Death

Delaware is pushing estate planning into the digital sphere with a new law that allows loved ones to access online accounts after a person's death.

The Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets and Digital Accounts Act (HB 345) was signed into law by Delaware Gov. Jack Markell last week, broadening digital access for legal heirs. In a press release from the Delaware House Democrats, the bill was described as the "first comprehensive state statute dealing with the disposition of a decedent's digital assets in the nation."

But what will the law actually allow for digital estates after death?

Transit Fare Evasion: Legally, What Can Happen?

It may seem like an easy way to save a couple of bucks: jumping the turnstile to get a free ride on the subway, or sneaking through the back doors of a city bus or streetcar.

But cities are beginning to crack down on transit fare evasion. In New York City, for example, fare-beating arrests -- as opposed to the less-serious ticket for fare evasion -- jumped 69 percent between 2008 to 2013, and they are on pace to increase even more this year, reports the New York Daily News. More than 37,000 of fare-evasion arrests in NYC have resulted in incarceration.

What can happen if you get cited for transit fare evasion?

3 Back-to-School Child Custody Tips for Parents

Back-to-school time can be a powder keg for divorced or divorcing parents, especially when it comes to dealing with child custody.

While "divorce season" kicks off on New Years Day, as two divorce-mediation experts write for The Huffington Post, divorcing or divorced couples with children will test their mettle when summer ends and the school year begins. Meeting with teachers may take a back seat to battling with your ex about taking your kids to school.

Help yourself, and your children, by avoiding unnecessary conflict and remembering to update your child custody arrangements. If you haven't done so yet, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

Can You Go on Vacation While Collecting Unemployment?

Filing for government unemployment insurance benefits can be a life saver when you lose your job and need to pay bills while you look for another one. But while collecting unemployment, are you allowed to go on vacation?

In exchange for unemployment benefits, you are bound to follow certain rules regarding what you need to do -- which typically includes looking for a new job -- as well as rules about what you shouldn't do, such as failing to report any earned income other than unemployment benefits.

So what about leaving town for a little rest and relaxation? Here are some general considerations:

Legal How-To: Using Email as Evidence

You may think an email message is the "smoking gun" in your case, and you'd like to use it as evidence. But legally, it isn't always as easy as bringing a printed-out copy of an important email to court.

The rules of evidence may require that the email be authenticated and to be introduced in a way that doesn't violate the general prohibition on hearsay evidence.

With these concerns in mind, here are a few tips on how to use email as evidence:

Not Stopping for a School Bus: Potential Legal Consequences

Stopping for school buses isn't just polite, it's the law. And as many impatient drivers have learned the hard way, not giving school buses a wide berth can lead to some serious legal consequences.

In Minnesota, a truck driver was charged with two misdemeanors last week for failing to stop for a school bus, allegedly almost striking a sixth grader who was about to board, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. These incidents are more common than they should be, and drivers should be aware of the risks they run by not giving school buses the right of way.

So what legal consequences can befall a driver who doesn't stop for a school bus?

School Vaccinations and Exemptions: What Parents Need to Know

With school having already started in some parts of the country and starting soon in others, many parents of school-aged children may be wondering: Are my kids required to get vaccinated? And if so, are there any possible exemptions?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all children be vaccinated for a number of different illnesses. But vaccine requirements for children attending school are set individually by each state.

How can you find out which vaccines may be required in your state?

Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'E'

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

The ability to understand legalese, the specialized language used by lawyers, judges, and others in the legal field, is essential to understanding and resolving legal issues.

In our continuing series Legalese From A to Z, we examine the meaning and purpose behind some important bits of legalese. Today, let's look at five legal terms that begin with the letter "E":

Prescription Drug Abuse: Prevalence and Potential Liability

Drug abuse isn't just occurring in crack houses and celebrities' trailers, it's happening in the homes of a quarter of Americans.

According to a new survey by FindLaw.com, 24 percent of Americans admit to abusing prescription drugs in one fashion or another. The National Center for Disease Control (CDC) called the rise in prescription drug abuse as an "epidemic," so what can Americans do to stem this tide?

Here are a few more revelations about prescription drug abuse and how Americans are using the law to fight back:

A 'Happy' Divorce? 7 Ways to Make It Less Stressful

The truth is, very rarely does a perfectly happy couple get divorced. Divorce, while in many ways onerous, can be a legal way to cut the cord and ultimately invite more happiness into your life.

The Huffington Post recounts more than a dozen ways in which divorce might change a couple for the better, including lowering anxiety and increasing happiness for each spouse. But it all depends on how you approach the actual divorce process.

Check out these seven legal ways to have a “happy” divorce that might work for you:

Renting to College Students: 3 Legal Reminders for Landlords

If you own rental property near a college or university, you may be considering renting your property to college students.

While college students can often be a lucrative source of dependable rental income, they also may present unique legal issues you should be aware of.

Here are three legal reminders for landlords renting to college students:

5 Things an Education Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't)

Unlike criminal law or high-stakes corporate law, education law is not typically the subject of movies or television dramas.

But education lawyers serve an array of important functions in the education world. For parents of school-aged children, an education lawyer can be essential to ensuring that a child receives the education that he or she deserves.

What exactly do education lawyers do? Here are five things that an education lawyer can do (that you probably can't):

Is It Legal to Photocopy Textbooks?

College and grad students subsisting solely on Top Ramen may be trying to save money by photocopying textbooks. But is it legal to do so?

While the best approach is to lawfully purchase or rent a textbook, you may be able photocopy a small section of the book for a single assignment without violating copyright laws, as Lifehacker explains.

However, photocopying too much of a textbook could potentially lead to costly copyright infringement claims.

Robin Williams Set Up a Trust for His Kids. Should You?

Actor Robin Williams passed after taking his own life on Monday, but a trust he set up before his death aims to legally protect his children.

According to TMZ, the legendary comedian set up a trust while he was alive to provide for his three children: Cody, 22; Zelda, 25; and Zachary, 31. This trust did not include the whole of Williams' assets, which may have been a good thing in light of his shaky finances near the end of his life.

How does Robin Williams' trust support his children, and should you follow suit?

Moving Off-Campus: 5 Legal Dangers to Avoid

With a new school year beginning soon, many college students will be eschewing the relatively predictable (if sometimes underwhelming) world of on-campus housing and moving off-campus.

If you're planning on living off-campus for the first time, finding somewhere that fits your budget is just the first step. What else do you need to know to keep your off-campus living situation from becoming a legal nightmare?

Here are five legal dangers you'll want to avoid when moving off-campus:

Legal How-To: Appealing a College Disciplinary Decision

Maybe you were hit with disciplinary sanctions as the result of a made-up misconduct allegation against university police, or perhaps a because of a bit of underage alcohol consumption. Worse yet, maybe you were wrongfully punished of something you didn't even do.

Whatever the case may be, being hit with disciplinary sanctions from your college can really put a damper on that thing that happens at college in between sleeping and partying: getting your degree. Especially when a disciplinary hearing results in a suspension or expulsion, doing all you can to clear your name (or at least to lessen the damage of disciplinary sanctions) becomes of paramount importance.

So how can you appeal a college disciplinary decision? Here are some general tips:

5 Legal Tips for Choosing a New Daycare

The need for daycare is both prevalent and problematic. Nationwide, some 12 million children age 4 and under are cared for daily by someone other than a parent, reports The New York Times. Factor in the millions of older children who need daycare when not in school, and chances are good that either you, or someone you know uses, or will soon start using daycare.

But with spiraling costs and horror-story reports of children being abused or neglected at daycare facilities, what can you do to make sure that you're sending your children somewhere safe?

Here are five legal tips for choosing a new daycare facility:

Back to College: A Legal Checklist for Students

So you're headed back to college for another year or several of sleeping in, dorm parties, and possibly even attending class. But as you pack up your flip flops and wrap up your summer internships, you may want to take a moment to solidify your legal situation.

Didn't think you had any legal problems? Well peruse over this "back to college" legal checklist and see if there's anything you may have missed:

Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'D'

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

Legalese might sound like something you'd order at an Italian restaurant, but the word actually describes the specialized language used by lawyers, judges, and maybe even you if you're ever faced with a legal situation.

As one might imagine, there are certainly quite a few obscure legal terms that still find their way into the everyday legal discourse. Our new series Legalese From A to Z is here to help key you in on some of our favorites.

This week, we take a look at some important and lesser known legal words and phrases beginning with the letter "D":

Is It Illegal to Block Traffic?

When a driver blocks traffic, it’s not only irritating, it may be illegal.

Depending on the circumstances, blocking traffic may violate city or state traffic laws and may qualify as reckless driving. On the other hand, there are a variety of legal ways in which a driver can impede the flow of traffic without actually breaking the law.

So when is it illegal to block traffic?

Plagiarism: 5 Potential Legal Consequences

As college students prepare for to start their fall terms, the unfolding saga of Senator John Walsh's plagiarized college paper should act as a warning of the potential perils of academic plagiarism.

Walsh is facing calls to withdraw from the race to defend his Montana Senate seat after allegations surfaced that he failed to properly attribute sources in a 2007 paper written while earning his master's degree at the U.S. Army War College, reports The Huffington Post.

Plagiarism -- copying another's work and passing it off as your own -- can have potentially dire consequences, sometimes many years after the fact. Here are five potential legal consequences of plagiarism:

Is It Legal to Hitchhike, Pick Up Hitchhikers?

Hitchhiking forms the backbone of American folk rock and horror films, and relies on the good intentions of drivers and hitchhikers alike. But state laws and federal regulations may prevent you from legally partaking in the American hitchhiking experience, if you're not too careful.

So is it legal to hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers? Here's a general overview:

3 Estate Planning Documents You Probably Need

When it comes to estate planning documents, having a valid will is a good start.

But a will is just one of a number of different types of estate planning documents you might need in order to ensure that your health care decisions and final wishes regarding your property are honored. What else do you need?

Here are three estate planning documents that you'll probably want to consider:

Is It Legal to Use a Relative's Address for School?

It's time to send your child back to school (or perhaps to school for the first time), and all enrollment applications require a residential address for each student. But if you decide to use a relative's address on his or her school enrollment papers, you may be heading for a heap of legal trouble.

Do your homework first. Here are some of the potential legal consequences if you're caught using a relative's (or a friend's, or anyone else's) address for school:

5 Contract Terms You Really Should Know

Contracts can be complicated by legal jargon, but there are a handful of contract terms which even non-legal consumers should know.

These basic terms control how a contract begins, when it ends, and even if it exists at all. With this crash course on contract terminology, you're much less likely to be bewildered when an agreement goes sour.

Here are five contract terms that you really should know:

What Can Happen If Your Child Skips School?

With the new school year starting soon, school districts are reminding parents that truancy isn't just the student's and school's problem, but may have serious ramifications for parents as well.

Truancy is the legal name for skipping school. In most states, truancy occurs whenever a student a certain age or under (17 in most states, 16 in some) is absent from school without an excuse from a parent or guardian. Although skipping school is often romanticized in pop culture, according to U.S. News & World Report, school districts are cracking down on both truant students and their parents.

So what can happen if your child skips school?

What Is Palimony? How Does It Work?

Palimony sure sounds an awful lot like alimony, and it also works in a very similar way.

Alimony, of course, refers to spousal support payments made by one spouse to another as set out in either a settlement agreement following a divorce, or in a court order. By contrast, palimony refers to similar payments, but between two people who lived together as a couple but were never married.

How does palimony work?

Legal How-To: Withdrawing Your Child From Public School

For one reason or another, you may wish to take your child out of the public school system.

Perhaps you're dissatisfied with the curriculum, the school's treatment of your child, or just the institution of government-funded education. In any case, you'll need to legally withdraw your child from public school before you can physically remove him or her from classes.

To help ease your child's educational transition, here are a few steps you may need to follow in order to legally withdraw your child from public school:

Paying for a Divorce Lawyer: 5 Free Factoids About Attorney's Fees

Divorce attorneys can be essential to getting you and your family to a resolution that brings you financial stability and closure, but it's pretty likely to cost you something. There are a variety of ways to pay a divorce attorney's fees, but specific quirks of family law make paying a divorce lawyer a bit different.

Don't be caught unaware about how to pay your divorce attorney, check out these five free factoids about attorney's fees:

A Back-to-School Legal Checklist for Parents

It's August, and you're probably getting ready for your kids to go back to school. But are you prepared for all of the legal issues that will inevitably arise?

Nothing gives your summer schedule a kick in the pants like preparing for back-to-school season. But after you buy all the school supplies, backpacks, gym shorts, and "cool" clothes, you might want to consider a few legal errands as well.

Just to make sure you don't miss anything this school season, here's every parent's essential back-to-school legal checklist:

Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'C'

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

Even for those of us who went to law school, legalese can be confusing. That's where FindLaw's Legalese From A to Z series comes into play.

This week, we explain in plain English five legal terms that begin with "C." While you may be familiar with some common terms like contract and civil case, here are a few other "C" words that only lawyers would use, that you may not be familiar with:

  • Causa mortis. Causa mortis is Latin for "in contemplation of death." In the context of gifts of personal property, a gift causa mortis -- a gift made in contemplation of death -- is a gift made while the giver is still alive but near death, and with the intent that the gift will take effect when the giver is dead. If the giver subsequently survives, then the gift is revoked.

Jury Duty Email Scam Hits 14 Federal Court Districts

The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts has issued a warning regarding a new email scam that requests personal information under the guise of a federal jury summons.

In a public alert issued this week, the Administrative Office noted that this latest juror scam has so far been reported in at least 14 federal court districts around the country.

How does this new scam work, and how can you tell the difference between a scam and an actual federal jury summons?

Facebook, Social Media Use Linked to Divorce Rates: Study

A newly released study pits two beloved institutions against each other: social media -- specifically, Facebook -- and divorce.

The study appears in the July 2014 edition of the journal Computers in Human Behavior. Researchers analyzed the relationship between social media platforms, marriage satisfaction, and divorce, discovering that "Facebook penetration" is associated with "increasing divorce rates."

Facebook has certainly never been of great help to troubled couples, but is social media use really associated with divorce?