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

March 2015 Archives

A divorce is emotionally difficult on its own, without factoring in the division of property that comes with it. And in some cases, the law surrounding who gets what only adds to the confusion.

Take a monetary award in a personal injury case, for example: when you get divorced, is your personal injury judgment treated as community property (to be divided equally), or separate property (which you can keep entirely)? Every divorce is unique, so let's take a look at some circumstances that could determine how a personal injury judgment is treated in a divorce.

You're a landlord. You let someone rent your house or a room in your house. Is he a tenant or a lodger? Is there a difference?

The rights and responsibilities of a landlord are many. However, if you don't know the difference between a tenant and a lodger, you may be getting yourself into legal hot water or creating unnecessary headaches for yourself.

So, what's the difference between a tenant and a lodger? Why does it matter?

States and the federal government are increasing the penalties and prosecutions of domestic violence in an attempt to curb cases of domestic abuse. And it's important for victims of domestic violence to report cases of abuse so they can seek protection and to address both specific violent episodes and to hopefully end the cycle of violence.

But many people aren't aware of what kinds of relationships are considered "domestic" when it comes to domestic abuse. While the stereotypical case might be a husband physically assaulting his wife, domestic violence can occur between dating partners or family members living in the same household.

You hired a lawyer a year ago. Since then, he hasn't returned your calls, answered your emails, or done any work on your case. (Most lawyers are more competent and conscientious than this.)

What do you do? You've tried to communicate with him, but he won't even meet with you. As a last resort, you want to file a bar complaint.

How do you do this, and what happens next?

After the shock of hearing about yet another airplane crash sinks in, many people start to wonder, "Who is responsible?"

Germanwings flight 9525 was flying from Barcelona to Dusseldorf when it crashed into the French Alps. There were 144 passengers and 6 crew members onboard. Nobody survived the crash. What happened? Why did this happen?

A jury in an infamous Silicon Valley sexual harassment case issued a partial verdict on Friday, clearing the venture capital firm Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers of gender discrimination. Ellen Pao, a former female partner at the firm, had claimed that she was not promoted because of her gender and that her working environment was hostile to women.

Pao also claimed the firm retaliated against her after she filed her suit against in 2012. The jury has yet to come to a consensus on the retaliation claim.

With the Supreme Court trying to decide whether Texas has to allow a Confederate flag on some of its license plates, it got us to wondering -- what exactly can we put on our license plates?

After all, we're paying for the plate, and it's going on our car. Can't we just put anything we want on our license plate? Then again, it's an official plate, issued by the state and with the state flag emblazoned on it. Can the government limit what kinds of things we can say with our license plates?

As it turns out, quite a few cases have popped up recently regarding free speech on the open road ...

What is the difference between a lease and a license?

They may sound like the same thing, and you may have heard the terms used interchangeably. However, a lease and a license are two separate legal concepts that offer different rights and duties.

A lease is an agreement between a landlord and a tenant that gives the tenant an exclusive interest in a property. A license is permission from the owner to a licensee to do something on the owner's property. As with all things law related, the distinction is never so simple.

To determine the difference between a license and a lease, we look at:

We've all had that experience of finally finding a parking spot and pulling in, only to see that dreaded sign: "RESERVED." And we've all had that next thought -- what would actually happen if I parked here anyway?

It seems like a risky proposition, so let's see if those reserved parking spots are enforceable.

Once welcomed home like a hero, Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl is now being labeled a deserter.

Sergeant Bergdahl returned home last year after spending nearly five years in captivity with the Taliban. Bergdahl was released in exchange for the release of five members of the Taliban held at Guantanamo Bay. While his family and community welcomed home with open arms, Bergdahl's platoon members and fellow veteran soldiers accused him of deserting his post during war time, putting others at risk.

After a lengthy investigation, the army has decided to charge Bergdahl on two counts, desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.

None of us want to think of our loved ones or ourselves being incapacitated or unable to make end-of-life decisions. But as we and our families age, these decisions become more important, and it becomes necessary to have a plan in place should the unthinkable happen.

Living wills and durable powers of attorney are two types of plans that can ensure a person receives his or her preferred medical treatment, and they function slightly differently. So here's a quick overview of the differences between living wills and durable powers of attorney.

What Happens When CPS Is Called?

For many parents, having child protective services (CPS) show up at your doorstep is more terrifying than the police knocking at your door.

A common misconception is that a CPS investigation means your child is going to be taken away. While it does happen, a call to CPS is not a guarantee of anything.

So, what does happen when CPS is called?

Marriage is the joining of two worlds, and two worlds of belongings. But the personal property you bring into a marriage will normally stay yours as separate property, if the marriage comes to an end.

Are there exceptions to this rule? And how can you ensure that your separate property stays separate and does not become marital property which can later be split?

Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to maintain your separate property:

We've all seen them before. You're driving down the highway, probably speeding a little bit. Suddenly, in your rear view mirror, you see a black and white car.

Yikes! It's a police car. You hit your breaks, slowing down to exactly 65 mph. You keep an eye on the car and drive on your best behavior until the car passes you. Wait. It's not a cop car! It's just some dinky jalopy with a mismatched paint job.

After breathing a sigh of relief, you think, "Is that even legal? Can you paint your car to look like a cop car?"

Maybe your sister totaled your car and won't pay for repairs, you contracted to rebuild your neighbor's fence and now they won't return your calls, or your college roommate stole your credit card and ran away to Tijuana. Whatever the case, you're owed a debt. How in the world do you go about collecting it?

There's plenty of ways to go about collecting what you're owed, from taking a gentle approach to pulling no punches. Here's five straightforward ways to collect on a debt, from least to most severe:

In another step to repair its reputation after a major data breach, Target has agreed to settle a class action lawsuit for $10M. Eligible claimants could claim up to $10,000.

Target previously tried to dismiss the class action suit arguing consumers did not have standing to sue. This means that consumers couldn't prove an injury arising from the data breach. However, the judge rejected Target's assertions, noting that the 114 named plaintiffs could show unlawful charges, blocked access to bank accounts, and inability to pay other bills.

If you want a chunk of the settlement, you'll have to:

"I love dog poop stinking up my yard right where I can step on it!" said no one ever.

Does a neighbor's dog keep pooping in your yard? Have you tried to talk to the dog's owner a million times but nothing works?

What can you do?

Grandparents can request visitation rights, so they can also be ordered to pay child support! Wait, what? Really?

Typically, the responsibility to pay child support falls on the parents of the child, not the parents' parents. After all, the grandparents didn't decide to have a grandchild.

However, there are some exceptions where grandparents can and may be ordered to take up the slack and pay (grand)child support.

What is "sharenting"? Over 50 percent of moms and 33 percent of dads are guilty of doing it, a recent survey reveals.

Do you post photos, stories, and videos of your little ones on your Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram? You're not alone. A University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital poll found that a majority of parents do post about their children and the trials and tribulations of parenthood online. Researchers call this "sharenting."

However, just because everyone else does it, should you? Here are three legal concerns to keep in mind before you post that adorable picture of your kid:

Buying a gravesite isn't exactly an everyday purchase. But it is an important, and often very costly, purchase that most people think about when planning their estates.

Do you know what you're getting when you buy a gravesite?

This is one purchase you should not make without asking these five questions first:

What Is Separate Property?

Separate property and community property: If you live in a community property state, you've probably heard these terms before. But what exactly is separate property, and how is it different from community property?

The simple explanation of the community property system is that anything you own before marriage is separate property, and anything you acquire after marriage is community property. If you divorce, you get to keep 100 percent of your separate property, and you get 50 percent of your community property.

As always though, there are exceptions. Here are a few points to keep in mind when figuring out what's considered separate property:

So you're leaving your job. Did you give your employer two weeks notice? (Or, did your employer give you two weeks notice?) What should you do next? The uncertainties of leaving a job extend to more than just "Where will I work next?"

If you're leaving your job, here are five legal reminders for your to-do list:

While traditional custody agreements usually consist of one parent having primary physical custody and the other parent getting visitation on weekends, there has been a growing movement toward 50/50 custody, or joint custody.

These 50/50 arrangements, however, can be difficult for all involved. Here are five tips on how to make 50/50 custody work:

If you're a student or recent graduate, are there any tax credits or deductions you should know about?

Even for the college-educated set, the maze of IRS tax rules, credits, and deductions can seem way too complicated. Nobody should have to figure it out by themselves.

With taxes due in a little over a month for most taxpayers (unless you get an extension), here are two tax credits and one deduction that may pay off for students and/or recent graduates:

If you've ever hired a lawyer (or looked into hiring one), you may be wondering why he or she charges so much -- typically in the hundreds of dollars per hour. How do lawyers set their fees?

One place to look is the American Bar Association's rule on attorney's fees. Rule 1.5 states, "A lawyer shall not make an agreement for, charge, or collect an unreasonable fee."

So what exactly is a reasonable fee, and how do lawyers determine how much to charge?

With travel between states simplified by the advent of cars, trains, and airplanes, many people find themselves embroiled in legal matters away from their home state. A common question that FindLaw gets from our readers is whether an attorney can practice in any state.

The simple answer is no: Attorneys must be admitted to the bar in each state they wish to practice in. However, legal answers are rarely so simple, and indeed, there are exceptions that would allow an attorney from one state to practice in another state.

So, how do you know if you need an in-state attorney or an out-of-state attorney for your out-of state case?

Under new rules, dependent spouses of H-1B visa holders (known as H-4 visa holders) will soon be able to apply for work permits.

In a recent announcement, USCIS Director Leon Rodriguez said that DHS will extend eligibility for employment authorization to H-4 visa holders. H-4 visa holders previously could not work while they lived in the United States with their H-1B spouses. This reform, part of Obama's executive action on immigration reform, will allow H-4 visa holders to develop financial independence and will widen the pool of highly skilled workers in the United States.

If you're an immigrant hoping to take advantage of this reform, here are four things you should know:

School vacations can be tricky times for separated parents sharing custody, and spring break can raise some especially challenging custody issues. So while your child is looking forward to some time off from school, you might be looking for answers to some important questions.

Here are two questions, and answers, that might impact your custody arrangement during spring break:

Another blow has been struck against gay marriage bans. A federal judge blocked Nebraska's gay marriage ban as unconstitutional on Monday.

U.S. District Judge Joseph Bataillon issued an injunction allowing same-sex couples to marry in Nebraska, once again overturning the state's ban. (Bataillon had struck down the ban once before in 2005, but the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated it, The Associated Press reports.)

Here are five things you should know about Monday's ruling:

The U.S. Supreme Court has a busy March to look forward to, with 12 cases scheduled for oral arguments.

With Confederate license plates, environmental regulations, criminal procedure questions, and patent cases on the docket, there's something here for everyone: