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

April 2015 Archives

May 1 in the United States in officially recognized as Law Day. President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the day, saying, "In a very real sense, the world no longer has a choice between force and law. If civilization is to survive it must choose the rule of law."

In honor of Law Day, FindLaw surveyed 1,000 American adults, asking them to rank the most important civil liberties and rights, as enumerated in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights. So which rights are most important to Americans? Let's find out:

Being a non-citizen resident in the United States can a precarious position. Until you become a naturalized citizen, there are many grounds upon which you can be deported.

A criminal conviction doesn't just affect your day to day life, it can get you deported. But, what if you never went to trial? Can a guilty plea affect your immigration status?

Top Disability Insurance Legal Questions From FindLaw Answers

You’ve got questions; we’ve got answers. If you have not yet asked or answered a question in FindLaw’s Answers community, what are you waiting for? This amazing free resource supports a dynamic community of legal consumers and attorneys helping each other out. Simple as that.

We see a lot of great questions in our Answers community every day. Here’s a look at some recent questions relating to disability insurance from our FindLaw Answers boards:

Sometimes it's hard to see and other times it's hard to admit, but the law affects our lives on a constant and daily basis. We don't always realize we're making legal decisions, let alone if those decisions are right or wrong.

So here are some common legal mistakes you might have already made, how to fix them if you have, and how to avoid them if you haven't.

While a father's rights regarding his unborn child are limited compared to those of the mother, they aren't nonexistent. There is still an important role for the father to play as well as some important decisions that he can be a part of.

Most of those decision-making rights are retained by the mother, but the father can have a vital role in the unborn child's life, both emotionally and legally.

Moms and dads often disagree in the best of circumstances. In divorce and custody situations, the disagreements can get nasty, and even petty.

A divorced New Jersey couple went to court to fight over whether taking their 11-year-old daughter to a P!nk (Pink) concert was abuse of parental discretion. The mother shares joint legal custody with the father. Mom took the daughter to a P!nk concert because the girl was an avid fan. Dad wants the court to declare that taking the girl to the concert was an age-inappropriate decision and an abuse of parental discretion.

The court disagreed that the concert was age-inappropriate, and deferred to the mother's right to exercise reasonable parental discretion.

Anyone who's scraped the last of their money together at the end of the month to pay rent has worried if they'll get fined for paying late. Same for those who've wondered about subletting or leaving their apartment before the lease expires.

But are these fines or penalties legal? And what are the limitations on fines in residential rental or lease agreements?

According to a report by the Society of Human Resources, 69 percent of employers conduct criminal background checks on all job candidates.

However, since there is no licensing requirement for background checking companies, errors occur all too often. Stories of people losing their job offers because of faulty background checks are not rare. In many of these cases, your rights as a job applicant are being violated.

So, what can you do if there are errors on your background check?

If I Find Treasure, Can I keep It?

Welcome to the new FindLaw series, "If I Find," where we'll discuss the rule of finders keepers as it applies to different topics. We hope you'll check back regularly!

This week, we'll follow the treasure map to where X marks the spot. Regardless of whether you followed a map or a rainbow to its end, if you find treasure, can you keep it?

Five months after she was nominated by President Barack Obama and eight weeks after she was confirmed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, Loretta Lynch was finally approved by the Senate as the next U.S. Attorney General. Lynch is the first African-American woman to serve as Attorney General.

So what exactly does the Attorney General do?

How to Set Up a Living Trust

Are you planning for the future?

What will happen to your property after you pass? Will it go into months and months of probate while your family wait and pay hundreds in court costs and legal fees? Or, do you have a living trust?

Are you considering setting up a living trust yourself?

Parents, society, and the media are becoming more open about the issues facing transgender children, the best way to protect and nurture transgender kids. And while the law has caught up in terms of protecting the rights of adult transgender workers and prison inmates, there are few legal protections in place for transgender children.

Here are a few of the laws already on the books, and some legal issues that parents and their transgender kids may still face:

How to Get Out of Buying a House

Buying a house is a big decision. Huge! It's where you'll be spending everyday of your life for the foreseeable future. You'll have a mortgage, and you'll probably be spending the next 30 years paying it off.

So, it's understandable that some buyers may have cold feet. Can you leave the seller at the altar and back out of your contract?

Vaccine Exemptions: Some State Laws

Last December, several visitors to Disneyland in California got an unexpected surprise -- measles. An outbreak of measles started when at least 40 people who visited or worked at the park contracted the disease and spread it to nearly 100 more people in over half a dozen states. The Center for Disease Control declared the outbreak over on April 17, 2015.

Despite measles being almost eradicated in the United States, unvaccinated travelers to and from other countries can bring the disease back. People vaccinated against the disease have little to fear. However, more and more parents are deciding to not vaccinate their children.

In reaction to the outbreak, some states are considering bills that would require all children to be vaccinated.

T.S. Eliot wrote, "April is the cruellest month." The National Safety Council, on the other hand, declared April Distracted Driving Awareness Month.

The Coalition Against Distracted Driving (CADD) has decided to commemorate the occasion by filing a $1 billion (PER YEAR) lawsuit against Apple for distracting drivers with the Apple Watch, a product that no driver has been distracted by yet.

The prom dress. Not even choosing a college induces the same amount of angst, apprehension, and possible elation for the high school female. The mere worry of duplicate dresses has spawned online databases and dibs industries.

At least one school had added another layer of stress on the dress decision. Eisenhower Senior High School in Houston, Texas initially posted a notice requiring all female prom attendees to submit photos of themselves in their dress for prior approval. This was probably not a well-thought-out plan.

With airplanes, cell phones, and the Internet making international connections so easy, international divorces have become increasingly common. Getting a divorce is hard enough, but how much harder will it be if you and your spouse live in different countries? Where do you file? How do you get the paperwork served? How do you enforce it?

International law is complex and the interaction of American family law and foreign law is even more complicated. However, ere are some basic things you need to know about international divorces:

There only thing better than that new car smell might be getting your new car out on the open road for the first time. And there may not be anything worse than a new car that you can't seem to get out of the shop.

Lucky for us, most states have lemon laws to protect new car buyers from getting stuck with a dud automobile. While lemon laws can vary from state to state, they generally require dealers or manufacturers to fix or buy back a vehicle with a seemingly irreparable defect. But how do you actually make sure dealers abide by lemon laws?

In a move criticized by many, Kansas enacted new rules limiting the use of cash assistance (also known as public assistance, or welfare).

Kansas' new law, which goes into effect on July 1, is an extensive ban on products and services that can't be purchased with cash assistance. Items that cannot be purchased with welfare include alcohol, cigarettes, tobacco products, lottery tickets, concert tickets, professional or collegiate sporting tickets, or sexually oriented adult materials. Cash assistance also cannot be used at casinos, tattoo parlors, nail salons, bail bond companies, or fortune telling businesses.

While Kansas' welfare law is the most restrictive law so far, laws prohibiting use of cash assistance for certain purchases are not rare

Remember those stories where grandpa said he walked three miles in a snow storm to get to school? His parents would probably get arrested for that today. As a society, America has seem to become more paranoid about child safety.

In Maryland, free-range parents Danielle and Alexander Meitiv have had several run-ins with the law and CPS because of their decision to let their two young kids, aged 10 and six, walk to the park and home alone. On the most recent occasion, police detained the kids for several hours without notifying the Meitivs after a 911 call reported that the kids were unaccompanied. According to reports, CPS is investigating the family for neglect.

Is it really against the law to let your kids walk alone?

Tax Day came and went and you did nothing. Well, you probably did something — you just didn’t file your taxes. You didn’t even file for an extension like we told you.

And now you might be wondering whether the IRS will come calling for their money. Can they arrest you for not filing your taxes? Send you to debtor’s prison? The good news is you’re probably not going to jail, yet. The bad news is your battle with the IRS could get very, very expensive.

Whether your last lease ended amicably or atrociously, your former tenant may have left a few of their things behind. So how long do you need to wait before clearing their belongings out? And do you have to hold onto their stuff before you toss it into the trash? Can you keep it if you like it?

State laws on leases and rental agreements can vary, so the answer may depend on where your rental unit is located. The answer will also depend on whether the property was left behind after the lease ended or after an eviction. Generally, however, here's some advice on what to do with a former tenant's things.

Most foster care arrangements are temporary: foster parents care for a child until the child is adopted, returned to his or her family, or reaches the age of 18. And although the relationship may be temporary, foster parents can have an enormous impact on a child's life and well-being.

Court and child placement decisions will almost always be made with the child's best interests in mind, and the requirements of foster parents are based on those concerns. But what may get overlooked are the rights of foster parents, with regards to both foster care placement procedures and with respect to the children themselves.

You just bought a shiny new laptop. You even bought the two year extended warranty. But, less than a year later, your computer starts spazzing out. It's not working the way it should. So, you try to get it fixed. The store claims the problem with your computer isn't covered by the warranty, and they won't cover the cost to fix it. Why are you not surprised?

What do you do if the store won't honor a warranty?

Many people get a divorce because they feel they've run out of options in their marriage. As it turns out, there are options for the kind of divorce you can get.

One of those options is known as a summary dissolution. While a summary dissolution has some advantages over a traditional divorce, it's not for everyone. Here are the differences between a divorce and summary dissolution.

Raising a child is already expensive. Raising a child with autism can be even more costly.

Since autism treatment can require many doctor visits, therapist visits, and medication, many families cannot afford the cost of caring for an autistic child.

However, the government may be able to help. Here are some benefits that your autistic child may be eligible for:

Circumstances change. Three years ago, you got divorced and were ordered to pay spousal support. Three years ago, you had a job. Three years ago, you didn't have a new baby. Your ability to pay spousal support three years ago is much different than your ability to pay today.

So, can you ask for a reduction in spousal support?

If you inherited property as an heir or next of kin this year, you might have thought you were getting a windfall. Instead, you may have just gotten a more complicated tax filing.

Before you can determine how much you'll owe in taxes on your inheritance, you have to first figure out if you even have to pay inheritance taxes in the first place.

How to File For Summary Dissolution

Divorce can be a long and arduous process. However, eligible couples may be able to take advantage of "summary dissolution" for a simpler and faster divorce.

Summary dissolution can be used to end a marriage or a domestic partnership. It is a less formal divorce process that includes less paperwork, fewer court appearances, and less negotiations and dispute.

Here is what you need to know about filing for summary dissolution:

April 15th is nearly upon us. And for those of you not quite ready to file, you might be freaking out. Not to worry, FindLaw and the IRS are here to help.

You might have heard rumors about filing an extension and giving yourself some more time to get your paperwork in order. So let's take a look at the extension process and what it can and can't do.

Refuse to turn off your cell phone? Wearing an offensive shirt, or no shirt at all? You can get kicked off an airplane. But, can you really get kicked off for having cancer?

One California woman and her family were removed from their flight because she didn't have a doctor's note to fly. Elizabeth Sedway has cancer. She was trying to return home from Lihue, Hawaii when an Alaska Airlines representative told her that she could not fly without a doctor's note. Sedway emailed her doctor who told her she could fly, but this was not enough to satisfy the airline. Sedway and her family had to stay an extra night and fly home on a different airline the next day.

Although the way Alaska Airlines treated Sedway seems unfair, was it legal for them to kick her off the flight due to a medical condition?

How to Modify a Custody Order

Life changes. Children grow up. Parents get new jobs, lose jobs, or move to different places. So, a child custody order must then change to adapt to the new circumstances in a child's life.

How do you modify a custody order?

Whether you’ve already filed your taxes, or you’re planning to right before the deadline, nobody wants to be audited by the IRS. Even if you let an accountant or some fancy new software file your taxes, you may still be worried about whether your filing was correct.

Well, the recent statistics on IRS audits have been released, and they might have something to say about how likely you are to get audited this year. Let’s take a look:

Rolling Stone and Columbia University's School of Journalism released an in-depth report detailing the myriad journalistic failures with an article covering an alleged rape at the University of Virginia. In response, Phi Kappa Psi, the fraternity implicated in the story, has announced plans to take legal action against Rolling Stone.

But do they have a case? Can reporters and news publications be liable for stories that turn out to be false? Here's a look at the frat's possible defamation lawsuit.

Wouldn't you rather hire someone you know instead of some random stranger off the street with a four star yelp rating?

Hiring a lawyer is hard. It's even harder when you don't know any lawyers. So, if you're lucky enough to have a friend or family member employed in the estimable practice of the law, should he be your go-to person for all things law related?

Is it a good idea to hire a friend or family member as your lawyer? Here are the do's and don'ts of hiring a lawyer friend:

We all want to spend more time with our kids. And if you're divorced, there are probably good reasons why you might not have warm feelings towards your ex. So when your child says she doesn't want to go to your ex's for visitation or joint custody, that should be a good thing right?

Not necessarily. Child custody agreements are legally binding, and disobeying one could get you into trouble. So can you force your child to obey a custody order?

It's out of sight and out of mind, but your credit report can affect your life in many ways you never expected. A bad credit report can make it hard for you to get a loan or a credit card. It can get you rejected for a rental apartment. It can even hurt your job search efforts.

Mistakes on credit reports happen all to often. You expect to have great credit, but suddenly you're rejected for a home loan. There may be an error on your credit report, hurting your score.

Here is how you can check for errors and correct your report:

Why pay for HBO when you can pirate Game of Thrones? Why buy Taylor Swift's "1989" when someone on BitTorrent is offering it for free? Why pay to go to a theater for "Avengers" when you'll probably be able to download it the day after it comes out, if not sooner?

We're all trying to pinch pennies these days, but illegally downloading copyright material may hit your wallet a little harder than just paying the purchase price. Here's what could happen if you get caught torrenting or pirating copyrighted music, movies, or shows.

For many people, divorce can feel even more adversarial than a criminal case. Too often, people feel like the court is biased against them.

So, is it true? Do divorce courts favor men over women, or vice versa? We don't have the answer here, but we do have some interesting results on what people think, especially once they have been in court.

If you're like me and you still haven't filed your taxes yet, you might still be looking for some good advice. Lucky for us, FindLaw has us covered.

Here are the 10 (or so) best tax advice posts from FindLaw blogs:

Can You Evict A Subtenant?

Rental relationships are hard. At first, you and your subtenant are friends. He's nice, clean, pays rent on time. Then, something happens, and the relationship sours. The subtenant stops washing the dishes, trashes the house, and refuses to pay rent!

Can you evict him? Can your landlord evict him?

Custody fights are never pretty. But, they can turn particularly ugly when parents resort to kidnapping their own children.

Over 200,000 parental kidnappings occur each year. Parental kidnapping can be as drastic as taking the child to another country, or as innocuous as preventing visitation. The laws regarding parental kidnapping do vary from state to state.

Below, we discuss whether three common situations that can fit the definition of parental kidnapping:

On March 26, Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said he supported the state senate approved Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), and would sign it into law: "I think it's a bill that puts a higher emphasis on religious freedom."

Less than a week later, Gov. Hutchinson rejected the bill after the Arkansas house passed it, and threatened the use of an executive order to change the bill if the legislature failed to do so.

So what happened over the weekend to send not one but two state governors moonwalking at light speed back from bills their state legislators passed with overwhelming majorities?

Due to a legal concept called the statute of limitations, some homeowners may be able to keep their homes despite years of missed mortgage payments.

In Florida, one homeowner may have beaten her foreclosure because the case against her was dismissed by the court. Since the statute of limitation on foreclosing her home has passed, the bank cannot refile its claim against her.

Sounds too good to be true? Here is what you need to know about foreclosures and the statute of limitations:

April 2nd is International Children's Book Day. Today and every day, we should inspire children to read, explore, and discover the world through books.

What better place for children to immerse themselves into the world of literature and imagination than their school library? Ideally, a school library should promote the freedom to choose, explore, and express one's opinions. Most of the time, school libraries are liberal in their book selection. However, books are challenged and banned all too often. What one reader might view as innocent, another reader views as inappropriate.

So, how do libraries decide which books to put on the shelves and which to ban?

Maybe it was nice having your recent college graduate back home for a little. (Or maybe your child didn’t go away to school.) And maybe the job market really is that rough out there. (Or maybe you’re wondering if your son or daughter is even looking.)

Either way, if it’s three years later and junior is still ensconced in his child bedroom, playing video games all day, coming home late at night, and eating all the Hot Pockets, you might be wondering if there’s any way to get your kid out of your house.

Lucky for you, there are ways to evict an adult child, but also concerns that come along with them.