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

October 2014 Archives

Gay Marriage Update: Wyo. Says OK; Puerto Rico Judge Says No

In case you missed it, Wyoming became the 32nd state to legalize gay marriage, with the state's attorney general giving his OK last week.

According to Reuters, a federal district court struck down the Equality State's same-sex marriage ban in mid-October, but stayed its ruling to give the state time to appeal. But Wyoming Attorney General Peter Michael decided against appealing the decision, allowing gay marriage to proceed last Tuesday.

What does America's gay marriage picture look like now?

Can You Sue Anonymous Internet Trolls?

One of the problems with the all-too-common Internet troll is that he or she is mostly anonymous, making it hard to pin down a person in court.

And even if you are able to zero in on your particular troll, there may be little the law can do to compensate you. Sometimes "trolling" is just a very deplorable and infuriating (but legal) part of our Internet lives.

So can you actually sue anonymous Internet trolls? Here are a few things to consider:

What Does 'Next Friend' or 'a/n/f' Mean in Legal Documents?

When involved in legal proceedings, it's always good to have a friend or two. But when a legal document refers a person's "next friend," it isn't talking about that person's social circle. Rather, the "next friend" is an individual appearing or appointed by a court to act on the behalf of a person lacking legal capacity, such as a child or a person who has been incapacitated due to illness or injury.

What does the "next friend" do, and when is it used?

Stay-at-Home Moms: What Alimony Can You Expect After Divorce?

Stay-at-home moms may need to reset their expectations about alimony after divorce; it might not be a given.

A Forbes contributor writes that many women going through divorce are quickly finding that spousal support (also known as alimony) is not provided by default. Even if it is granted, alimony may be squeezed down to a very small window of time and/or for a fraction of what a divorcee might expect. This may leave many stay-at-home moms, who may have been out of the job market for years, in the lurch.

So what should stay-at-home moms expect from alimony?

Legal How-To: Proving You Paid for Something With Cash

If you're fighting in court over a cash payment, how can you prove that you actually paid?

Paying for things in cash may be becoming less common as technology marches on, but if you still use cash, you'll want to get some proof that you paid. In many cases, the person you paid may be reluctant or defiant about admitting that he's been paid. In order to get the law's help, you may need to prove that the cash in question actually changed hands.

So how do you do this? Every case is different, but here are some potential ways to prove you paid for something with cash:

Ebola Quarantines in N.Y., N.J., Ill., Fla.: What's Required?

As government officials seek to limit growing concern over the possibility of an outbreak of Ebola in the United States, several states have instituted mandatory quarantines for those who may have been exposed to the disease.

Ebola has so far caused just one fatality in America, that of Thomas Eric Duncan who died earlier this month after contracting Ebola in his native Liberia. Nevertheless, states including Florida, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois are moving forward with new quarantines for those returning from areas affected by the Ebola outbreak.

What do these quarantines require?

$10K Ring Case: 10 Legal Reminders About Engagements

So you've decided to get engaged. Congrats! But while planning for your wedding, you should be aware of some the legal issues surrounding your engagement.

For example, what happens to that expensive ring if the wedding gets called off? A New York man recently found out the hard way when a judge ruled his ex-girlfriend (whom he claimed was his ex-fiancee) could keep the $10,000 ring he bought her, even though the couple had split.

What are some legal issues soon-to-be married couples need to know about? Here are 10:

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

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

If you've ever tried to decipher a section of your state's code or make sense of a legal document, you've likely encountered legalese, the specialized language of lawyers, judges, and those in the legal field.

Each week, as part of a continuing series Legalese From A to Z, we're taking a closer look at noteworthy bits of legalese. Today, we take on five legal terms that start with the letter "O":

  • Objection. Anyone who's been to court, or at least watched a courtroom drama on TV, has likely heard a lawyer yell "objection!" Although rarely as dramatic as on TV, objections are made at trial for the purpose of opposing the admission of evidence or the method of questioning by opposing counsel. The judge can then sustain the objection -- in which case the opposing counsel must rephrase his question or address the issue regarding the admissibility of his evidence -- or overrule the objection, in which case the evidence is admitted or the witness allowed to answer.

10 Laws You Should Know If You're in Ohio

Everyone from Ohio knows that "toward the lake" means north, and "toward the river" means south. In Ohio, when someone asks you how far away something is, you respond in minutes, not miles ("it's about 15 minutes from here"), and the University of Michigan is your mortal enemy.

When visiting the Buckeye State, if there's one thing you have to know, it's that candy buckeyes are delicious and real buckeyes are poisonous. Oh, and don't forget to keep these 10 laws in mind too:

Amending Your Trust: 3 Legal Tips to Consider

Want to amend your trust? As a recent case out of Missouri shows, you may need a few legal tips about how to do it right.

The case involved Dr. K.R. Conklin, who hand-wrote some modifications to his trust in 1996. He and his wife were embarking on a cross-country trip, and just in case something happened to them, they wanted to change the distribution of stuff in their trust.

Thankfully, Dr. Conklin survived the trip. However, when he eventually died in 2009, a fight ensued between his children -- who were beneficiaries in his original trust -- and his stepchildren, who were named in the hand-written amendment, but not the original trust. The Missouri Supreme Court determined that Dr. Conklin's hand-written letter wasn't an effective amendment to his trust.

So how can you amend a trust so that it's fool-proof? Here are a few legal tips to keep in mind:

Child Nut Allergies: 3 Legal Tips for Parents

Today is National Nut Day, a day dedicated to celebrating delicious, nutritious nuts. But for parents of children with severe nut allergies, nuts may not be something to celebrate so much as something to fear.

Nut allergies have been on the rise. According to a study published last year in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, the percentage of children suffering from peanut allergies in the United States more than tripled from 1997 to 2010, reports CBS News. In some cases, children with nut allergies who are exposed to even trace amounts of nuts can suffer fatal allergic reactions

What can parents of a school-aged child with a nut allergy do to help keep their child safe? Here are three legal tips to keep in mind:

Are You an Internet 'Troll'? Legal Consequences to Consider

More than 1 in 4 Americans -- 28 percent, to be exact -- admit to Internet "trolling," according to an online survey conducted by research firm YouGov. Trolling is defined as "malicious online activity" directed at a stranger. Trolls like to argue, harass, or sow discord just because they like the reaction it provokes.

Trolls aren't well regarded in the online community, and in fact, contribute to an overall decline in the quality of online discussion and debate. It got so bad on the website for the magazine Popular Science that the editors decided to turn off the ability to comment on articles last year. In so doing, Popular Science referred to a study showing that "uncivil comments not only polarized readers, but they often changed a participant's interpretation of the news story itself" -- meaning that trolls debating an article in bad faith actually caused readers to disbelieve something that was true.

OK, so trolling is bad for debate. But can it carry legal consequences?

Legal How-To: Handling Legal Matters While Abroad

When you leave the country, you don't necessarily leave all your potential legal troubles behind.

Whether you're traveling abroad for an extended period or have moved overseas permanently, legal issues back in the United States may require your attention. But how can you handle legal matters while you're out of the country?

Fortunately, you may be able to take care of matters without having to book an international flight. Here are a few tips to consider:

3 Potential Ways to Challenge a Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is one of the most powerful (and potentially risky) documents one can sign: It gives a third party “agent” the ability to control the assets of the “principal” as if the agent were the principal. Depending on how broad the POA is, that could mean anything from controlling one’s financial accounts to controlling everything: healthcare decisions, investments, property, and accounts.

With that much power comes a duty to act in the principal’s best interest. As you might expect, that doesn’t always happen. And if an agent is abusing his or her power, and the principal can’t revoke the POA (a typical example would be a principal who is mentally incompetent), you might want to challenge that POA in court.

How? Here are a few ideas:

Expensive Weddings Lead to Higher Risk of Divorce: Study

A new study examining the link between the amount of money spent on a wedding and the duration of marriage has come to a somewhat surprising conclusion: Couples who spend less on their wedding tend to stay married longer than those who opt for expensive weddings.

In the study, researchers at Emory University looked at over 3,100 married couples, reports the Chicago Tribune. In addition to the amount of money spent on a wedding, the study found several other correlations between wedding ceremonies and duration of marriage that seem to go against conventional wisdom.

What does your wedding say about the odds of your marriage ending in divorce?

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

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

For the last several months, our series Legalese From A to Z has been walking you through the sometimes wacky, sometimes confusing world of legalese , the specialized language of law used by those in the legal field.

Letter by letter, we've been examining some important, interesting, or noteworthy bits of legalese. This week, we take a look at five legal terms that start with the letter "N":

  • Next of kin. You may have heard the phrase "next of kin" in situations where a person has died without a will and that person's property will pass according to the laws of intestacy. But who is considered next of kin? Under the laws of most states, the next of kin is a spouse or domestic partner. If there is not a spouse or domestic partner, then the next of kin will usually be a person's children. If there are no children, the next of kin will typically be the first of any of the following blood relatives who are surviving: parents, then siblings, then grandparents, then aunts and uncles, and so forth. Depending on the laws in your state, relatives beyond a certain degree of remoteness may no longer be considered kin.

10 Laws You Should Know If You're in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania was one of the original 13 colonies, and if you're in the Keystone State, you should be familiar with its rich history of laws.

While learning about the life of the Founding Fathers is a great way to enjoy the history of Pennsylvania, you may also want to focus on the present laws that will have a slightly more pressing effect.

Get ready for an updated page of Poor Richard's Almanac, with 10 laws you should know if you're in present-day Pennsylvania:

Ignoring a Cease-and-Desist Letter: What Can Happen?

Cease-and-desist letters are often ignored, but that doesn't mean legal consequences won't follow.

While these letters have no real legal effect, failing to respond or follow up on a cease-and-desist letter may lead to some predictable responses from the sender. And while some cease-and-desist letters are simply legal-sounding huffing and puffing, others are the harbingers of potentially ruinous and costly lawsuits.

So what can happen if you ignore a cease-and-desist letter? Here are a few possibilities:

In Divorce Cases, When Can You Get Attorney's Fees?

Divorcing spouses often hope that a judge will award them attorney's fees as part of a crushing legal victory over their former partners.

As satisfying and poetic as it might be to have your ex-spouse pay for your divorce lawyer, in most cases, the bill is on you. Generally speaking, it's only in extreme or special circumstances that you'll be able to get someone else to pay your divorce attorney's fees.

So in a divorce case, when can you potentially get attorney's fees?

Can Online Chats Be Used as Evidence in Court?

Like email and other digital communications, online chats can sometimes act to preserve conversations months, or even years after they took place.

In a civil lawsuit or criminal trial, the contents of a conversation conducted via online chat could help prove or disprove an important fact or substantiate the version of events told by either side.

But can online chats actually be used as evidence in court?

Cancer Patient Moves to Ore., Plans Assisted Suicide

Cancer patient Brittany Maynard isn't taking her terminal cancer diagnosis lying down. She moved to Oregon and is planning her assisted suicide.

Maynard, 29, was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer nine months ago, but she didn't want to "die a horrendous death," reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Instead of languishing in front of her loved ones while the cancer spread, Maynard moved from California to Oregon, where she plans to take advantage of the state's "Death with Dignity" law.

Can You Be Fired for Going On Strike?

When you and other workers decide to go on strike to protest working conditions, you may be worried about being fired.

Typically employers cannot fire employees for striking, but workers shouldn't take this protection as absolute. Employers can still terminate employees for a variety of reasons, even if that employee belongs to a union.

So should you worry about being fired for going on strike?

Legal How-To: Getting a Credit Card 'Chargeback'

Alongside the many well-known benefits of using a credit card to make purchases -- being able to pay over time, earning airline miles, or other rewards -- credit cards also offer unique protections for consumers who may feel like they didn't get what they bargained for in a purchase.

Credit card companies are generally obligated by state and federal law to offer customers chargebacks for disputed charges. Chargebacks function as a refund for purchases made by consumers who have a valid dispute as to the charges associated with the purchase.

How do chargebacks work?

Gay Marriage Updates: Alaska, Arizona, and Montana

Alaska has become the latest state to have its gay marriage ban overturned by a federal judge, following a major decision by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

On Sunday, U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess found that Alaska's gay marriage ban violated the Due Process and Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution, and ordered all state agents to not enforce the law. CNN reports that Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell announced his intention to appeal the court's ruling, citing his "duty to defend and uphold the law and the Alaska Constitution."

What is the state of gay marriage now?

Should Columbus Day Be 'Indigenous People's Day' Instead?

Today is the federally recognized Columbus Day holiday, celebrating the voyage of Christopher Columbus and his "discovery" of the New World.

But in some cities -- including Seattle and Minneapolis -- Columbus Day has been replaced, or at least joined, by a new holiday known as Indigenous People's Day, reports Smithsonian. The holiday is aimed at celebrating the culture and traditions of the people who already inhabited the Americas when Europeans began colonizing the Western Hemisphere following Columbus' storied journey.

What's behind this new holiday, and what does it mean for the future of Columbus Day?

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

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

If you've ever tried to read a legal document or comb through a state code section, you've likely encountered a few words or phrases that left you scratching your head.

You've just encountered legalese, the native language of the legal world. Understanding legalese can make seemingly difficult legal concepts much easier to understand. To that end, our series Legalese From A to Z breaks down the language of the law one letter at a time. This week, we take a look at five legal terms that start with the letter "M":

  • Mailbox rule. In contract law, the mailbox rule works to make a person's acceptance of another person's offer to enter into a contract effective when sent through the mail or other means agreed to by the parties. The mailbox rule typically comes into effect when the person who made the offer -- known as the offeror -- attempts the revoke the offer before she's received the other person's acceptance, but is prevented in legally doing so due to the offeree's mailing of his acceptance.

10 Laws You Should Know If You're in Illinois

Illinois is more than just home to Chicago, it's practically the center of culture for the Midwest. But you won't be able to fully appreciate that spirit if you don't know the laws of the Prairie State.

Northwestern students know better than to hit the road without obeying Illinois' DUI laws, and we think even Al Capone knew how his estate might be split up.

Don't visit or set up roots in the Land of Lincoln without learning more about these 10 laws:

Who Legally Owns Your Facebook Posts?

Facebook users may be convinced that they "own" whatever content they post to Facebook, but the legal reality is a little bit different.

If you read Facebook's legal terms of service, you'll find that "[y]ou own all of the content and information you post on Facebook," but with some very specific and important caveats.

So what does it mean to legally "own" your Facebook posts?

Can an Employer Check Your Credit Score?

When applying for a new job, most applicants expect that an employer will check up on the applicant's references and job history as part of an employee background check.

But what about an applicant's credit? If a job seeker has a spotty credit history, past foreclosures, or large amounts of unpaid or past-due debts, should she be worried that a prospective employer may also check her credit score?

The short answer is: in many states, yes; in other states, no; and in any event, there are strict federal rules about how an employee credit check must be done.

5 Supreme Court Legal Terms You May Not Know

The Supreme Court doesn't take pains to make itself more understandable than any other federal court, and it often uses terms that average Americans might not understand.

Although studies have shown that most judges hate legalese, the nation's highest court continues to use many Latin or even English terms that are powerful but not well explained.

Avoid being a Supreme Court rube (or n00b). Get the skinny on these five odd Supreme Court terms:

Texting While Biking: Is It Legal?

By now, you're likely aware that texting while driving is illegal pretty much everywhere. But what about texting while biking?

Bike riders are generally subject to many of the same traffic laws as cars, such as observing traffic signals and not biking while intoxicated.

So is texting while biking legal?

What Happens If You Don't Respond to Divorce Papers?

Although it takes two to get married, it typically only takes one to get divorced.

When a divorce petition has been filed by the spouse seeking divorce, that petition is served on the other spouse. That spouse is then expected to answer the petition within a specific time dictated by state law.

But what happens if the other spouse fails (or refuses) to respond to the divorce papers?

Gay Marriage Bans Struck Down in Idaho, Nev., Maybe 3 More States Too

Idaho and Nevada's gay marriage bans were struck down by a federal appellate court Tuesday, making same-sex marriage in five more states that much closer to reality.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that gay marriage bans in both Idaho and Nevada violated same-sex couples' rights to equal protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, reports The Associated Press. Not only did the laws deny gays and lesbians the right to marry, but they did not meet the higher level of scrutiny applied to laws that discriminate based on sexual orientation, the court found.

How did the 9th Circuit come to strike down Idaho and Nevada's gay marriage laws?

Legal How-To: Giving Your Landlord Written Notice of Move-Out

Breaking up is hard to do, and you may be clueless about how to break it to your landlord that you're moving out.

Unlike breaking up with your latest fling, there's actually a great semi-formal method of calling it quits with your tenancy: a move-out letter. By sending your landlord a letter, you can clearly announce your intention to move and highlight your rights and responsibilities before you do.

Don't know where to start? Here's a quick how-to on giving your landlord written notice of your move-out:

Supreme Court Passes on Gay Marriage (for Now): 5 Things to Know

The U.S. Supreme Court passed on hearing appeals in five states' gay marriage cases on Monday, leaving same-sex marriage legal in about half of U.S. states.

Utah, Virginia, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Indiana will now start implementing the effects of their gay marriage appeals being denied, in some cases beginning to marry gay couples within hours of the High Court's decision.

Even if you don't live in one of these states, here are five things you should know:

Tax Extension Deadline Is Oct. 15: 3 Last-Minute Reminders

For most Americans, tax season ended almost six months ago on April 15. But those who instead filed a tax extension have hopefully spent the last six months preparing for their extended deadline, which is coming up on October 15.

Tax extensions allow taxpayers who are unable to complete their taxes by the filing deadline to instead file for an extension with the IRS, giving them an extra six months to complete their tax returns for the previous year.

What do those who are coming up on the tax-extension deadline need to keep in mind? Here are three last-minute tips:

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

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

There are a quite a few common legal terms that begin with the letter "L": law, lawyer, lawsuit, to name a few obvious ones.

One of the most important but least understood legal "L"-words, however, is legalese, the unique and sometimes difficult-to-decipher language used by lawyers, judges, and others who work in the legal industry.

With our continuing series Legalese From A to Z, we run down some of the more interesting and useful bits of legalese, one letter per week. This week, we take a closer look at some (more) legal terms that start with the letter "L":

10 Laws You Should Know If You're in Florida

Florida is a great place to raise a family, vacation, or even retire. But you'd be a fool to do any of the above without knowing at least some of the Sunshine State's laws.

Don't even think about passing down that "Golden Girls"-style South Beach pad without first learning if your will is valid under Florida law. And while you may have the pants and the look of "Miami Vice," you should probably know the DUI laws before you hit the road.

To make your Florida fantasy a legal reality, check out these 10 laws you should know:

Ebola Patient's Dallas Family Quarantined, Raising Legal Issues

As Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan is being treated at a Dallas hospital, his family has been quarantined. But compliance with public health orders hasn't been complete.

The Houston Chronicle reports that Duncan's relatives attempted to leave their Dallas apartment in opposition to official requests to stay home. The family's quarantine is now being enforced by police officers posted outside their apartment.

Where do Texas authorities get the power to impose a quarantine, and what legal consequences could the family face?

Is It Legal to Text While Stuck in Traffic?

If you've been paying attention, you're probably aware that texting while driving is against the law in almost every state.

But you might be wondering whether laws that prohibit texting while driving also apply to times when you might be behind the wheel, but not actually going anywhere, such as when you're stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

Is it legal to text while stuck in traffic?

Calif.'s Plastic Bag Ban: 5 Things You Should Know

California made history on Tuesday by signing the nation's first statewide ban on plastic bags into law.

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the bill, SB 270, on Tuesday, which will eventually remove single-use plastic bags from big box stores like Walmart and Target as well as grocery stores, convenience stores, and pharmacies. The Associated Press reports that plastic bags have been successfully ousted from many large cities, including San Francisco and Los Angeles, but this statewide ban marks a major milestone.

Here are five things every consumer should know about California's plastic bag ban:

Can You Collect Workers' Comp and Work Part-Time?

Workers' compensation is the insurance system that compensates workers who suffer work-related injuries and illnesses.

In cases where the worker's injury results in permanent, complete disability, workers' compensation benefits will typically be awarded in an amount that reflects not just the worker's medical bills but also the future inability of the worker to earn his previous income due to the injury.

But what about cases in which the worker may be able to continue work part-time or return to light duty? Can you collect workers' comp benefits while still working part-time?