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

March 2016 Archives

5 Questions When Buying a Vacant Lot

You've been scanning real estate listings, looking at vacant lots and plots of land, and you are very tempted. The prices are so nice compared to parcels with homes on them, and you like the idea of a clean slate.

But wait. Before you dive in and find yourself in a mess, consider these five questions. They should help get you thinking about what you need to know before you buy a lot in any state.

How Long Can I Collect Past-Due Child Support?

Once long ago you were married, and in your divorce a court ordered your now-ex-spouse to pay child support, which never happened. In fact, it has been years of you going it alone and never receiving what the other parent was legally obligated to contribute. What can you do?

Child support is determined by state courts and the different states all have their own statutes of limitation on how long you can seek back child support. Let's look at a few examples across the country so you can see how to figure out what you need to know.

If you’re still smarting because your betrothed broke off your engagement, you may be pondering the many ways you could exact your revenge. Beyond the many illegal things you should definitely avoid doing, are there any legal remedies available for the jilted ex?

As it turns out, there was a common law doctrine known as “breach of marriage promise” that allowed you to sue someone for breaking off an engagement. But whether that still applies may depend on where you live.

3 Tips on Renting Space to Family or Friends

You have a studio apartment in a university town that would just be perfect for your niece -- she's starting college next semester. Her mother, your sister in law, has been talking to you about letting her stay there.

You do want to help but you are not sure how to handle this so it does not turn into a financial loss or a family feud. Here are some do's and don'ts for renting a room or apartment to family members.

You'd rather be flying with your kids, but sometimes circumstances don't allow it. Or maybe you trust your children and are sending them on an adventure. Either way, sending your unaccompanied minor to the airport, and onto a plane, can be fraught with legal and emotional issues.

Here's what you need to know about unaccompanied minors flying on their own:

North Carolina's Anti-Discrimination Law: What You Need to Know

The national battle over LGBT rights is heating up, with North Carolina's newest law challenged by transgender activists in a lawsuit and Georgia's governor announcing he'll veto a controversial bill deemed discriminatory.

The North Carolina law prevents localities from extending protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in service businesses. It was written in response to a Charlotte ordinance permitting people to use restrooms according to their gender identity. Meanwhile, Georgia House Bill 757 would have allowed for discrimination against the LGBT community by faith-based organizations.

#USImmigrationLaw: What Is a Sham Marriage?

A sham is something fake, and the word applies to anything from bedding to marriages. A pillow sham, for example, is an ornamental cover, for surface effect only. It's what you put on a pillow to make it look good.

Similarly, a sham marriage dresses up a person's legal status. It is a union entered into for immigration benefits, not one based on two people's genuine desire to share their lives. US immigration law recognizes marriage as a basis for adjustment of status, so people do marry for the legal advantages. But faking a union is not like dressing a bed -- it's much more difficult -- and immigration officers do review to ensure that marriages are bona fide, or true.

By the time you're a grandparent, the hard work should be over. Your kids are (hopefully) grown and self-sufficient, and you're either enjoying retirement or looking forward to doing so.

But the life of a grandparents isn't entirely carefree -- there are still some legal issues that can arise and are particular to grandparents. Here are five of the most important:

What You Need to Know as a Will Executor

You have been named the executor of a will, which sounds very serious and a little scary to you. What do you have to do and can you get help if you need it?

Although you are supposed to be in charge should anything happen, you have more questions than answers at this point. So let's go over an executor's role.

A total of 39 states allow patients to use medical marijuana in some form or another, but the laws from state to state can vary significantly. Four states and the District of Columbia have fully legalized cannabis, while ten states only permit non-psychoactive cannabidiol. And that says nothing about the federal government's current prohibition on marijuana entirely, coupled with its hands-off approach to state decriminalization efforts.

All of this leaves medical marijuana users in a legally precarious position vis-a-vis their employers. Does a doctor's prescription or state law protect you from being fired if you use marijuana legally?

On the Road: 3 Cheapest and Most Expensive States to Drive

The open road is a part of the national imagination. We love cars in the US, fetishizing them in our books, films, and music. People here start driving early, and the lucky ones go on lots of road trips, listening to songs about cars the whole way, of course.

But the cost of ownership varies widely from state to state, according to a new study by finance site GoBankRate. The study examined costs associated with car ownership beyond the purchase of a vehicle, that is, putting aside sticker price, and compared these nationwide. Let's see which states are most and least expensive.

Trending Questions From FindLaw Answers

You've got legal questions, we've got answers! If you have not yet asked or answered a legal question in FindLaw's popular Answers community, what are you waiting for? This amazing free resource supports a dynamic community of attorneys and consumers healing each other out -- simple as that!

Here's a look at some of the more popular legal questions posted to our boards lately:

5 Tips for Spotting Family Theft From Elderly Parents

Before your mom got sick, she tried to arrange everything so that she would not be a burden on anyone. But now she is too far gone to pay much attention to what's happening and you're starting to get the sense that your siblings may not be telling you everything.

What do you do? How do you know when an elder is abused? Are there any clues? The following is a list of five tips for spotting possible family theft or abuse, per Forbes' Carolyn Rosenblatt, a consultant for children of elderly parents. Any one of these might not indicate a problem but a combination could be a sign that it's time to step in.

It's pretty well settled by now that employers can't discriminate based on race. But that doesn't mean that racial discrimination in the workplace doesn't happen. The hard part can be identifying discrimination when it happens and then proving it in a complaint or a lawsuit.

So what are your legal options if a current or prospective employer discriminated against you based on your race, and when can you exercise them?

You gathered up all your W-2s, expense receipts, and other tax documents and handed them over to your accountant. Now you’re looking at an IRS audit and possible fines for filing improperly, late, or not at all.

If your tax accountant screwed up, are you on the hook for their mistakes? And if so, do you have any legal recourse?

5 Tips for Choosing Your Divorce Lawyer

You understand the importance of a good relationship. That is why you got married and it's why you are now getting divorced and in need of a lawyer you can trust. How do you find the right divorce attorney?

The general answer is by choosing carefully. We'll get into specifics below.

Consequences of Overstaying My Visa in the United States

You came to the United States and decided to remain ... maybe even just a little longer. What will happen if you overstay your visa?

The answer to that question is not simple. It can depend on how you came, why you are staying, and more. Almost every rule has exceptions -- perhaps you can't go home or you need to stay for reasons recognized by the law. Let's take a look at some general rules that will give you the tools to consider your situation.

The Internet can be a big, scary place, and you've got to worry about everything from who your kids might be chatting with to who might have access to your credit card information. While being online can make communication and commerce easier, it can make protecting your personal information and even personal safety harder.

Here are seven tips for staying safe online:

Landlord Locked Me Out: Is That Legal Eviction Procedure?

You are reading this on your phone at a café because your landlord locked you out today, and you're wondering if that is okay. Is it legal?

Landlord-tenant law does vary from state to state, and it is difficult to say in the abstract what precisely should have happened without knowing more. But there are some general principles of eviction we can consider.

You can leave assets to your grandchildren just as you can leave them to your children. But just because it's legally allowed doesn't mean the legal process is exactly the same, or that such a transfer is without its legal quirks.

Because there is a greater likelihood that your grandchildren will be minors when you create your estate plan, you may have additional concerns as well as additional options when creating trusts and gifts. Here are a few things to consider when leaving assets to grandchildren.

On Avoiding Bankruptcy: 5 Financial Tips

When times get tough, the tough sometimes want to indulge in a little shopping. But retail therapy and reactive spending can be big contributors to a personal credit crunch.

There are things you can do to remain financially healthy if you're not now in trouble and to avoid bankruptcy if you're on the brink. If you start thinking carefully about expenses, you can bring yourself back from the edge of financial disaster without too much pain and a lot of gain.

Are There Advantages to Legal Separation Over Divorce?

You were committed to your marriage, but things have gone sour and you're ready to split. Only you are not totally committed to divorce yet. Is there any advantage to a legal separation? And how does that differ from divorce?

Legal separation is available in some, but not all, states. Of course any couple can separate -- but making that legal, and crafting terms of the split, including allocation of funds and benefits, is another matter. Let's examine legal separation.

Deductions, withholdings, credits, dependents -- it's enough to make a non-CPA's head spin. The tax filing deadline is fast approaching, meaning you still have time to make, and hopefully fix, some of the worst mistakes when preparing your taxes.

So before click "File" online or throw that overstuffed envelope in the mail to the IRS, make sure you didn't make one of these common tax filing errors:

Why You Need a Life Care Plan and a Lawyer to Help

When we are healthy and everything is going well, we don't like to dwell on the possibility of disaster, illness, or misfortune. But by addressing the issues that could cause us trouble later in life, we minimize the likelihood that a catastrophic event will thwart all our plans.

Even if you are convinced that you need a plan, you may not know what you need and how to ensure that everything is in place, legally speaking, so that your plan is carried out. Enter the attorney, also known as a life care planner.

For some jobs, we don't have a say in how much we get paid -- we're offered a salary and either take it or leave it. In other cases, employers may give prospective employees a salary range dependent on experience. And in a few instances, it may seem like the salary is set, when employers are actually willing to have a bit more flexibility in pay.

So how do you know when you can negotiate your salary? And what's the best way of handling those negotiations? Here are a few tips.

Benefits for Women Veterans Get Attention in Arizona

Although women have long served in the military and are increasingly in combat roles, there is little awareness of veterans' benefits for women. Mostly when we think of vets, we think of men. But the Department of Veteran Affairs in Arizona wants to change that.

The state's Department of Veteran Services this spring is holding four conferences targeting women veterans specifically. The department's director, Colonel Wanda Wright, told NBC News that the specific focus on women veterans is necessary because women who do not serve on combat units often fail to recognize themselves as veterans and miss out on services and benefits available to them.

How to Divorce If a Spouse Won't Sign Papers

Once you were very close and you left each other notes, signed "Yours Forever." But now your true love is long gone and you need to move on. How do you get a divorce if your spouse refuses to sign papers or is just not around to participate in the process?

Fear not. There is a way. Although divorce laws vary from state to state, every place allows for the possibility of a reluctant or even absent spouse. Generally speaking, if you follow the rules of service of process and file court papers in a timely fashion, you're fine. Ensure that the appropriate party has been notified by one of the many means available and you should be able to get a divorce by default.

Even if you know you and your spouse aren't right for each other, getting a divorce can be a scary process. Of course there are the big questions -- what happens to the kids, or the house? But also all those little questions you may not have thought about -- how could this affect my taxes, or my business?

We've got those answers and more in our seven best legal tips when you're getting divorced.

The first noble truth of Buddhism is that existence is suffering. It's precisely because suffering is such a big part of our experience as living beings that much of our medical care attempts to alleviate it. Now, starting June 9th, 2016, California will permit those in the most pain, whose deaths are imminent, to commit medically assisted suicide, reports NPR. 

If the new death-with-dignity law, the End of Life Option Act, sounds potentially problematic to you, that's because it is. But it attempts to balance the needs of the terminally ill with those of doctors and society as a whole, and has conditions built in that should prevent abuse. Let's take a look.

Are Parents Liable for a Minor Child's Contracts?

Your kids are great but they sometimes do foolish things and lately you've been wondering just how far your responsibility extends. You know you must feed, clothe, and shelter your children, provide them with care and an education. But are you also liable for their acts? What about if a minor child enters into a contract?

These are difficult questions that are best answered in the specific rather than the abstract. But an understanding of some parental liability and contracting basics can guide you to the right conclusion.

A Teacher's To-Do When Threatened or Assaulted by a Student

You are a teacher. Every day you stand before young people and try to prepare them for the world. But you were not prepared to come to work one day and face an assault or attack.

Unfortunately, teachers are threatened and assaulted at work all around the country with some regularity. Let's take a look at what rights teachers have when a student attacks or assaults them.

3 Trending Questions From FindLaw Answers

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

Here's a look at some of the more popular legal questions posted on our boards lately:

Whether you're moving for a new job, a new spouse, or just a new experience, our neighbor to the north has a lot to offer -- Canada has gorgeous scenery, friendly folks, and some of the most welcoming immigration laws around.

But that doesn't mean immigrating to the Great White North doesn't come with a few legal issues. And no one is better situated to help you with those issues than FindLaw Canada, with the most comprehensive access to legal information and lawyer services in the country. So if you're thinking of moving to Canada, here are a few of the best resources FindLaw Canada has to offer:

In a short and definitive opinion, the United States Supreme Court overturned an Alabama Supreme Court opinion that refused to recognize the parental rights of a lesbian woman who adopted three children with her partner in Georgia. While the case may sound confusing at first, the Court's opinion was clear: Alabama must recognize valid adoptions from other states.

This case didn't previously garner a lot of media attention. However, the ruling could have an enormous impact on the adoption rights of same-sex parents. Here's what you need to know:

Mandatory Reporting Laws: Report Child Abuse Immediately

No one wants to be called a busybody and most of us try to mind our own business. But there are times when minding your own business is illegal. That is true when it comes to child abuse reporting.

A story out of Indiana last week highlights this, as five Indianapolis School District employees were publicly criticized by the Schools Superintendent, Lewis Ferebee, for failure to promptly report child abuse, according to The Indy Star. Let's look at what happened in Indiana and mandatory reporting generally.

If you're already planning your summer road trip based on how many national parks you can see, good for you. Supporting federally protected parks and wilderness means preserving places of nature and wonder for future generations. And part of that support means visiting our national parks legally.

In an effort to preserve native ecology, national parks like Yosemite, Yellowstone, and the Everglades can be very particular about the kind of activities they permit. Here's a list of the seven most important national parks laws.

What the Supreme Court's Stand on Louisiana Abortion Law Means Nationally

Late last week the Supreme Court blocked enforcement of a Louisiana law that requires abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. The High Court's move was hailed as a victory for reproductive rights activists and a sign of the likely outcome for a similar law challenged in Texas. Let's look at why the matters to women, and men, nationally.

Buying or selling a home can be a complicated, emotional, and stressful process, which is why you hired a real estate broker to help. Hopefully, you interviewed her beforehand, and hopefully, the broker is someone you can trust. But what happens when that trust is broken?

Of the many legal issues facing real estate brokers, lawsuits for misrepresentation are by far the biggest. So how do you know if your real estate broker has made misrepresentations, and when can you sue because of them?

How Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody?

Courts make custody determinations using a single, seemingly simple standard. That standard is the best interests of the child. As you can likely imagine, living in a violent setting does not meet that standard. Domestic violence definitely affects child custody, and will certainly be considered by a court determining the best place for your child to live.

So whether you're the victim or the perpetrator of domestic violence, understand that protecting the child is the court's priority. If you will not do it, a court might step in.

Electronic Estate Law: New Account Access Proposal

We used to write things down on paper, including our estate plans. That wasn't super secure -- documents erode, get lost, or are destroyed. But now we conduct much of our personal business electronically and there is a new complication, providing fiduciaries access to digital assets while maintaining user privacy.

There is a proposed solution, however: a uniform approach to electronic account access across the country -- one that protects privacy -- known as the Revised Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RFADAA). Nearly half of the states are now considering passing the legislation, so let's ignore the unwieldy name and consider what is being proposed. This is about people rifling through our electronic drawers!

It happens about this time every four years or so -- American voters, faced with the prospect of their disfavored candidate becoming president, threaten to flee to Canada if he or she is elected. This election cycle, the Canadian emigration candidate seems to be Donald Trump.

After Trump nabbed seven of eleven states on Super Tuesday, US-based Google searches for "move to Canada" soared to a ten-year high. So if you're considering a move to the Great White North to avoid a Trump (or Cruz, or Clinton, or Sanders) presidency, do you need to get a lawyer?

Checking in to the hospital can be scary for anyone, especially the elderly, who generally suffer more serious ailments and are more likely to be confused or misled regarding their medical treatment. So it’s important for elderly patients, and their friends and family, to know and advocate for their rights as a patient.

Here are a few of the rights elder patients have in a hospital, and how to make sure they are protected.

Transgender Bathroom Laws in Public Schools: A National Overview

South Dakota this week narrowly escaped becoming the first state in the nation to pass a law forcing transgender students to use bathrooms and locker rooms of their birth sex. The bill would have forced students use facilities associated with the gender they do not identify with, making them prisoners of their biology.

The governor of South Dakota, Republican Dennis Daugaard, this week vetoed the bill, saying it "does not address any pressing issue" and that the decision was best left to local school officials, according to Fox News. The veto may indeed have saved South Dakota some headaches, particularly as other states head in the opposite direction.

Top 5 Voting Rights Laws

It's primary season and the next presidential election is right around the corner, which means the focus will turn to voting rights and access to the polls. You know we live in a democracy, and you've probably heard of "one person, one vote." But what exactly are your voting rights? Do you need ID? And does your boss need to give you time off to vote?

We've got the answers to these and other questions in our top five posts on voting rights laws.

Snow on Rental Property: Landlord and Tenant Removal Duties

It's snowing yet again and you can't wait for spring to arrive. But it's not yet here and someone has to clear all the snow on the sidewalk and covering the walkway. Who has to do it?

Depending on where you live it is either the tenant or the landlord, which is to say it varies from state to state. Snow removal is required of owners in some places and renters in others, and sometimes local ordinances make demands, so it's not enough to know state law.