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

February 2015 Archives

Whether you're following the latest celebrity trial or dealing with a lawsuit or criminal charge yourself, you may be wondering why legal cases take so long to resolve. And sadly, there's no way to fast-forward to the end to find out the answer.

While there are some time limits on when charges or claims can be brought (see statutes of limitation) and how long a case can take (the right to a speedy trial), there are also opposing forces that can delay cases.

Every case is different, but there are some general factors that determine how long a legal case will take.

FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules: What Does This Mean for You?

The Federal Communications Commission just voted, 3-2, to regulate Internet service providers like Comcast and Time Warner as "common carriers" under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The vote caps off a period in which the FCC received an unheard-of 4 million comments to this proposal.

There's been a lot of misinformation going around about what Title II regulation means for businesses and consumers. Will your Internet bill go up? Will you suddenly lose "Game of Thrones"?

Here's what you need to know:

The minute we fork over that lump sum at the beginning of our lease, we're worried (or we should be) about how to get a security deposit returned from a landlord.

Landlords are already keeping track of the kinds of costs they can deduct from your deposit, so you should equally as diligent about getting all, or most, of your security deposit back.

Here are a few tips you may want to keep in mind:

Taxes aren't fun to think about in the best of times. And if you're going through a divorce, how such a split may affect your taxes might be the furthest from your mind.

But if you're not paying attention, you could take a bigger tax hit than necessary. So here are some potential ways to protect yourself come tax season:

The U.S. Supreme Court is hearing six cases in the last week of February. The cases touch on issues including alleged religious discrimination by a clothing store, performance bonuses from courts to attorneys, and whether a firearms offender can sell his confiscated guns.

If you like to keep an eye on the highest court in the land, this is what you have to look forward to:

It's becoming a more common question: Do landlords need to give Spanish-speaking tenants Spanish-language rental documents?

As the nation's population has grown more diverse, so have our legal interactions, especially between landlords and tenants. Considering the legal requirements to comply with state contract law, tenant rights, and fair housing statutes, there may be cases where landlords must supply tenants with residential lease documents in Spanish.

If this applies to you, FindLaw's collection of legal forms in Spanish, available for purchase here (scroll down to "Formularios en Español"), may speak to your needs. Here are three Spanish-language forms that landlords may find particularly useful:

What Is an Injunction? When Can You Get One?

In addition to or in lieu of money damages, civil courts may also order an equitable remedy such as an injunction.

An injunction is a court order compelling a party to do or not do a specific act or acts. Injunctions are typically used to prevent future harmful action, rather than to compensate to an injury that has already occurred. Injunctions can be temporary -- such as a preliminary injunction issued before a trial to prevent a defendant from harming the plaintiff's ability to enforce his or her rights-- or permanent.

What are some of the most common types of injunctions, and when are they issued?

What Is Case Law?

You may have heard of case law, but what does the term actually mean?

Case law refers to legal principles developed through judicial decisions. As opposed to laws contained in statutes and enacted by the legislative process, case law comes about through the aggregation of court opinions interpreting and applying the law to individual cases. In the U.S. legal system, the rulings of higher courts are binding on lower courts. Courts also adhere to stare decisis, which generally requires that courts follow the precedent set by previous court decisions.

What does case law do? Here are a few important examples:

We are often warned that the Internet is forever. Since we users are not (yet) immortal, what happens to our online lives after our corporal ones are over?

On Thursday, Facebook announced that users can now designate a legacy contact: "a family member or friend who can manage their account when they pass away." So what happens to your feed after you've shuffled off your last status update? And what about your digital assets: email, e-books, etc.?

While some states have enacted laws addressing a deceased person's online accounts (and the Uniform Law Commission has proposed a nationwide statute on the matter), more often than not, how your data is dealt with after death will come down to your particular service provider. Here's a general overview:

The time period between Christmas and Valentine's Day is known as "Engagement Season," with couples dreaming of a wedding down the road. Unfortunately, the best-laid plans often go awry and may not deliver on that promised joy.

On top of broken hearts, couples who break off their engagement may also have to worry about broken contracts -- and that's not all. Here are three legal concerns that may arise when calling off a wedding, and how they can potentially be addressed:

What can a tax lawyer do for you, that you may not be able to do on your own?

With so many online tax filing options, taxpayers may start thinking they’re experts when it comes to filing properly and getting the biggest possible refund. What many of us fail to realize, however, is just how complex the tax code can be. In some cases, it may take an expert to make sure you get a big refund check in the mail and not an audit notice from the IRS. (Or to make sure it’s just an audit notice and not a criminal summons.)

So here are five things that a tax lawyer can potentially help you with:

Amid Controversy, Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal in Ala.

Alabama was the source of a good bit of controversy surrounding same-sex marriage last week, after a federal judge declared the state's law prohibiting same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Right after that, however, the Alabama Supreme Court's Chief Justice Roy Moore issued his own order telling state judges and employees not to recognize same-sex marriages or issue licenses.

Moore's conflicting order led to questions about who trumps whom when it comes to federal trial courts and state supreme courts, but the U.S. Supreme Court put the issue to rest by refusing to review the case.

What's going on down in Alabama?

Robin Williams Estate Fight: How Do You Challenge a Trust?

Almost six months after the tragic death of Robin Williams, the predictable has happened: There's a squabble over his estate.

The battle pits Williams' three children (from his two previous marriages) against his widow Susan, to whom he was married for three years. Williams left behind a comprehensive estate plan consisting of trusts for his real estate and for his children.

Because trusts are a more bulletproof option than distribution through a will when it comes to estate planning, how can you challenge a trust? Here are a few possibilities:

When you're shopping online, do you actually read the fine print? If you don't, you're not alone, according to a new survey by FindLaw.com.

A majority of online shoppers -- 54 percent -- say they either skim or ignore online user agreements, terms of service, or other legal fine print they encounter. On the other hand, 46 percent of shoppers say they read "most" or "every word" of such agreements.

The survey results are nearly identical to a similar FindLaw survey in 2011 -- though since that time, the online shopping market has grown by 50 percent to $300 billion. This suggests many online shoppers may not really know what they're getting themselves into.

When Can You Serve Someone via Publication in a Newspaper?

Serving the other side with notice of a lawsuit is typically done in person or through the mail. In some cases, however, a person may be served by publication in a newspaper.

Following the filing of a complaint -- the document which describes the lawsuit and identifies the parties involved -- the party filing the lawsuit must complete what is known as "service of process." There are typically very specific rules for how service must be completed, depending on the type of case and the jurisdiction in which it is being filed.

Generally speaking, however, when can you serve process via publication?