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

June 2015 Archives

Planning on remodeling your bathroom, adding a fence, or re-roofing your house? If so, you may need to obtain a permit.

Fixing or remodeling a house is hard and costly enough, but figuring out which permits you need and applying for them can make the job even harder. Do you really need one?

Car insurance. You know you need it, but how much? What happens if you don’t have it? What happens when you get in an accident?

To help clear the air, here is a roundup of our best car insurance articles to help answer your questions.

While many are celebrating the Supreme Court's decision in favor of marriage equality in the case of Obergefell v. Hodges, many others are still trying to resist the tide of progress.

Before the ruling came out last Friday, 15 states still had bans on same-sex marriage. Of those states, many welcomed the new era of marriage equality with open arms while some reluctantly and grudgingly complied with the "law of the land." Only a few states are still fighting tooth and nail to "protect the freedom of religious beliefs."

Here is a breakdown of how those 15 states are reacting to the Supreme Court's ruling:

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!

When Quasimodo was left on the doorstep of Notre Dame, the priest took him in. When Moses floated down the river Nile in a reed basket, the Pharaoh's sister found him and raised him as her own.

If you found an abandoned baby today, could you keep it?

Yesterday, Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.

Today, that definition is an unconstitutional violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that same-sex couples have the fundamental right to marry.

5 Questions to Ask Before Marriage

Getting married is a big step, and you shouldn't go into it blindly assuming that everything will work out according to your fairytale vision.

If you're preparing to get married, I'm sure you've already had many discussions about your hopes, your dreams, and the wedding cake. However, there are some necessary uncomfortable questions that should be asked as well.

Here are five legal questions you and your future spouse should ask each other before getting married:

Obamacare lives to fight another day!

The health care law, more formally known as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), withstood yet another attempt to negate it today after the Supreme Court ruled in favor of the government in King v. Burwell.

While some adoptions can add more life and joy to a family, not all adoptions work out as planned. Sometimes adoptive parents just aren't as ready or able to care for an adopted child as they thought they were. It also happens that an adopted child grows up and apart from the parents who adopted her. Or a child's birth parents want custody back.

Adoption can be the right choice for so many children and families. But if an adoption goes wrong, here are a few ways it can be fixed.

The 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the right to vote, is coming up soon in 2020.

A group called Women on 20s wants a woman to be featured on the $20 bill by then to commemorate the occasion.

Is this legally possible?

Are you eligible for DACA? Do you know how to apply? Are you afraid to study abroad because you're undocumented?

Undocumented students of the University of California system can now get their legal immigration questions answered for free.

You probably picked your apartment or rental house based on the fact it had a pool, and now that summer is here, that decision can really pay off. So it'd be a real bummer to find the pool discolored or half-filled or the pool area dirty or potentially dangerous.

Before you can enjoy the full summer pool party experience, your pool needs to be adequately maintained. But whose responsibility is it to maintain the pool?

Attorneys can be expensive, and often the better the attorney, the higher the cost. So what can you do if you can't afford an attorney?

Just like most other 21st Century problems, this one can be solved with the internet. Over the last five years, crowdfunding platforms like GoFundMe have contributed to a $5.1 billion worldwide industry. But does that make it a good place to turn to when you need a lawyer?

Top 5 Spousal Support Questions

Spousal support. Alimony.

Sure, we’ve heard of it. Most people know that when you get divorced one spouse may have to pay spousal support to the other. However, many people also have a lot of questions regarding how much, how long, and how to enforce.

So, here is a round-up of the top five questions regarding spousal support:

In 36 states, same-sex couples are already able to legally marry. In the 13 holdout states, same-sex couples are eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges. The court must decide whether the Fourteenth Amendment requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

If the court rules in favor of same sex marriage, then same sex couples in all 50 states will be able to marry. In addition, the decision will have far reaching financial implications, such as social security, tax, and estate planning benefit once denied to same-sex couples.

Not every happy couple is able or wants to get married. Although that could all change soon with the Supreme Court's upcoming ruling on same-sex marriage, there may still be couples, same-sex, heterosexual, or otherwise who would rather choose a domestic partnership over a marriage.

Domestic partnerships were created in the 1980s in large part to provide same-sex couples the legal protections of a marriage in places where same-sex marriages were not allowed. So how have they evolved and what are the pros and cons of a domestic partnership?

The lawmakers who were working so very hard to protect religious rights in Indiana probably weren't considering the possibility of a Church of Cannabis when they passed the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).

When Indiana's RFRA goes into effect on July 1, the Church of Cannabis will have its first service. Church founder, Bill Levin, relies on RFRA and the First Amendment to assert his right to smoke marijuana, in direct violation of the state's law, as part of his religion.

Will he succeed?

Running a stop sign can be three points on your license. A DUI can be four points. And speeding can be anywhere from two to six points, depending on how fast you were going.

Every state has a system for assigning point values to different kinds of traffic offenses, and they can often function in very different ways. So where do these points come from, and how can points affect your license?

Going through your credit card bill, you find a $400 charge at McDonalds in Bangkok. Wait! When did you go to Bangkok, and what would you buy for $400 at McDonalds?

Chances are, your credit card information was stolen, and there's been some fraudulent charges on your account. Usually, the process of disputing those charges is relatively painless. You call your credit card company and make a report. They freeze your card, give you a refund, and send you a new card. Easy, and done.

Sadly, it doesn't always happen that way. Your credit card company may deny your fraud claims. What do you do then?

With Father's Day coming up this weekend (get to the store, kids!), it's time to focus on the dads. More specifically, fathers' rights in child rearing and family planning.

The Fathers' Rights Movement has aimed to guarantee more legal protections for fathers in family law, child support, and custody decisions, so let's take a look at where those protections are today.

Colorado joined California, Montana, and Washington in allowing employers to fire employees who use marijuana, even if it's legal in the state, even if it's medical marijuana with a prescription, and even if it's off the clock.

The state Supreme Court ruled 5-1 that Dish Network was allowed to fire Brandon Coats, a quadriplegic telephone operator who used medical marijuana while he was off-duty to calm his violent muscle spasms, after he failed a random drug test.

For a night out, do you hire a neighborhood kid to be your babysitter? Or, do you hire the boy next door to mow your lawn? How much do you pay them?

Adults employed in the workforce enjoy certain protections such as minimum wages. Do kids get those same protections? If you occasionally hire a kid to babysit your child or mow your lawn, do you have to pay them minimum wage too?

It's a concern that's unique to the most recent generation of parents: how worried should I be about my child's Internet use? We've all heard the anecdotes about everything from screen time to online bullying, and as the Internet grows and evolves, it's only natural for parents to become more uneasy about the amount of time their kids are spending on the Internet and what they're seeing and sharing while online.

A recent FindLaw survey backs this up -- parents are more worried about their children's safety while they use the Internet than they were four years ago. But are they doing more anything about it?

Rachel Dolezal claims to be African American. Her parents say that she is Caucasian.

In the past few days, Rachel Dolezal's story has exploded into the public arena. For years, Rachel identified herself as African American. When applying for a job she identified herself as white, African American, and Native America. However, according to her parents, Rachel is Caucasian, or more specifically, European and Native American.

What's the big deal? Is it a lie to identify with a certain race not evidenced by your heritage? Is it illegal to lie about your racial identity?

Bust out your American flag. Dust off your flag pole. Sunday is Flag Day!

Did you know that Congress actually passed a law to make Flag Day a holiday? On June 14, 1977, the Continental Congress adopted the Stars and Stripes as the official flag of the United States.

In honor of Flag Day, here are some fun articles about flags:

In a move that would be laughable if it wasn't so sad and damaging, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder tried to beat the U.S. Supreme Court's impending same-sex marriage ruling by quickly signing three bills into law that would allow adoption agencies to discriminate against LGBT people.

The probably unconstitutional laws permit faith-based adoption agencies to discriminate against potential adoptive parents if they are gay.

On a sunny day, what’s more fun than cruising down the street in the back of a truck bed with the sunshine in your face, wind blowing through your hair, and no barriers between you and nature?

But is riding in a the back of a truck legal?

Whether you’re in the crowd waiting to “Come on Down!” and play The Price is Right or beating Jeopardy! contestants to the answers, you’re probably dreaming of what you could do with all that cash and prizes. But TV game show winnings may be smaller than they appear.

Just like lotto winnings, Olympic medals, home run balls, and even free doughnuts, if you’ve won something of value, the IRS is going to want their share. Does that apply to game show winnings as well?

From May 9, 2014 to May 15, 2014, same-sex marriage was legal in Arkansas when Pulaski County Circuit Judge Chris Piazza struck down, as unconstitutional, a 2004 voter-approved same-sex marriage ban and an earlier state law defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

About 500 couples were married within that short period of time. Not long after, the state Supreme Court approved a petition from the state's attorney general to halt the issuance of such marriage licenses. Since then, those 500 same sex marriages have been in legal limbo as the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration decided that they are "void from inception as a matter of law."

That may no longer be the case.

Prospective students are are often unable to pay for their own college education, so, they need financial aid.

Most students will apply for financial aid by filing a Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as a FAFSA. For most students entering college, their parents' income must be entered into the FAFSA to determine how much money the parents must contribute and how much financial aid the student will get.

But, what if you get divorced? Can that hurt or help your child get financial aid?

Where are you traveling to this summer?

By car, by train, by bus, and by plane, many of us will go on the open road to visit far away friends and families or see new places. So, here is a round-up of our best travel posts to help protect your rights during your summer wanderings:

After Edward Snowden's revelations on NSA spying, many of us had to adjust our expectations of privacy when it came to email. Perhaps everything online, even private emails, is public.

But there appears to be some resistance to that idea. Key parts of the Patriot Act covering bulk email collection expired last week, and a federal judge says the Yahoo must face a class action lawsuit for reading its customers emails. But there's a twist -- it's not Yahoo Mail subscribers suing the search and email company.

Hot on the heels of John Oliver's evisceration of America's abysmal family leave benefits for new parents, Congress is trying to strengthen employment protections for some soon-to-be parents. A new, bipartisan bill would require employers to provide reasonable accommodations for pregnant employees.

The new legislation comes in response to a recent Supreme Court ruling which said that employment policies that provide accommodations for disabled workers must do the same for pregnant workers. So how are pregnant employees protected now, and how might they be under the proposed new law?

Unionizing is something we used to only learn about in high school, but unions may be making a comeback. Gawker Media has become the first online only media outlet to have its employees unionize.

Gawker Media is the parent company of Jezebel, Deadspin, Gizmodo, Gawker and other gossip and news sites. Gawker Media employees recently voted to join the Writers Guild of America. The now unionized employees will begin the process of forming a bargaining committee and decide what to bargain for.

The media company is not alone in its efforts to unionize. Yesterday, Virgin America pilots have also voted to unionize. Virgin America was the last major U.S. airline with non-union pilots.

One hundred and seventy-seven bikers were arrested following a May melee that left nine dead in Waco, Texas. As of today, 143 of them remain behind bars.

Matt Clendennen is one of the 34 who've managed to get bailed out of the McLennan County Jail, and has filed a lawsuit against the city of Waco, McLennan County, District Attorney Abelino Reyna, and individual officers involved in his arrest, claiming authorities violated his client's Fourth and Fifth Amendment rights.

With this oath you promise to uphold the Constitution and laws of this State ... except the ones you don't like.

North Carolina is trying to pass a bill that would allow public officials to opt out of having to perform gay marriages. Governor Pat McCrory already vetoed the bill, but the Republican led state Senate overrode McCrory's veto with a 32-16 vote.

If someone else decided to use your property as a parking lot (or if your property is a parking lot and someone has overstayed their welcome) you probably want that car gone now, and maybe you want to do it yourself.

But getting a car towed off your property is one of those situations where self help might not be the best remedy. So what are your options for towing a car on your property?

It seems like nearly every year, a school foolishly decides to exclude a student from the yearbook, not because of any horrific criminal activity, but because of her choice of clothing.

This year, Lincoln High School, in Stockton, California, excluded Crystal Cumplido's senior portrait from the yearbook because she wore a tuxedo instead of the low cut shoulder bearing drape required for girls. But not only was her picture excluded, no mention of Cumplido could be found in the yearbook, not even in the index.

When will schools learn?

Can You Go To Jail For Debt?

Nothing in life is free. For some, the costs of court fines and fees hurt more because they're poor.

When Conner Comeau was convicted for graffiti, he was sentenced to two days in jail and a fine of $1,300 for restitution. Four years later, he was sentenced to 100 days in jail. His new crime? Not being able to pay his restitution debt.

Is debtor's prison back?

Finding out your spouse cheated may have you thinking of taking revenge during your divorce proceedings. But does your soon-to-be ex's infidelity matter when it comes to the divorce? And if so, how?

These days, most states have "no fault" divorce laws, which allow spouses to divorce for any reason, regardless of fault. However, some states still recognize adultery as a legal ground for divorce, where your spouse's affair could have an impact on your divorce.

The Supreme Court overturned a man's conviction for making violent threats on Facebook. Anthony Douglas Elonis had been found guilty for posting about killing his ex-wife, law enforcement officials, and even a kindergarten class under a federal threat statute.

Elonis had defended the posts, saying they were similar to rap lyrics and they were not intended as threats. It was the intent portion of the statute that the Court had a problem with.

What is a 529 Plan?

Are you ready to pay for your child's college education?

According to the Institute for College Access and Success, 69 percent of all graduates from public colleges in 2013 have an average student loan debt of $28,400. That's only for a bachelor's degree. If your child goes to law school, add about $84,000 to $122,000 more in student loans. Does your kid want to be a doctor? Expect to pay nearly $300,000 for medical school.

Have you been saving for college? Have you heard of a 529 Plan?