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

July 2016 Archives

Checklist: Legal Steps to Take After a Death

The death of a close friend or family member is often very difficult emotionally. You would probably like to retreat and deal with your grief immediately. But someone has to make sure that everything is organized.

That is why it's a good idea to know about what needs to be done before the unfortunate but inevitable occasion actually arises. There are important practicalities to address immediately after a person close to you passes away. Let's go over a checklist, compiled by Consumer Reports, that outlines the first steps you should take.

Families are getting smaller; rental rates are skyrocketing; hipsters are headed back to the land (sort of). Hence, you have the tiny house movement, a whole lot of people trying to live within very little spaces. And whether you see the desire to live simply inside of 500 square feet an effort to save the environment or a quaint lifestyle choice, you may run into some legal obstacles getting there.

Here are a few legal issues that come with owning a tiny home, and how you can overcome them.

Am I Responsible for My Elderly Parents' Medical Bills?

As you get older, the roles reverse and you become responsible for your parents. Just as they cared for you when you were vulnerable, now you too must fend for them, especially if they are sick.

You understand this as a moral imperative, but you can't help wondering if there is a limit to this directive. Does it extend to paying parental debts when they are unable to cover their own costs, most notably medical bills?

Both you and your spouse want a divorce. So it sounds like an uncontested divorce is the best option. But hold up -- not only do you need to agree to get divorced, but in order for your divorce to be uncontested you also have to agree on all the basic divorce issues like child-custody, property division, and spousal support.

While an uncontested divorce may save time and some paperwork, there are still some formalities to work through, one of which is the divorce hearing. But if you and your soon-to-be ex are in agreement on the divorce, what's left to decide? Here's what you need to know about what happens at an uncontested divorce hearing.

3 Tips to Help You Win Your Child Custody Battle

If it was easy to get what you needed from your spouse, you two would not be splitting up, so you are worried about the custody of your kids. You expect a battle and need to prepare.

Custody battles can be long and emotionally painful. Prepare your psychological reserves and plan a practical approach. Think long-term. Here are three tips to help you show the court that you deserve custody.

When Does Spousal Support Stop?

Whether you give or receive spousal support, you likely feel some type of way about it. Most spouses are not eager to spend their lives supporting an ex financially. Similarly, the recipient of support can feel resentful about the amount of money received or even the need for it.

But spousal support is necessarily not about feelings. It's about needs, ensuring that the end of a union does not mean financial ruin for a former spouse who earns less or no money and relied on their partner. The period of support varies widely and will depend not only on state law but also personal circumstances. Generally, it lasts as long as necessary, which can be as long as a lifetime but may be less. Support stops when the need for it officially ends.

Most of us will never see the inside of a courtroom. And if we do, it's more likely to be for jury duty, or to haggle over a speeding ticket. Those less lucky may find themselves on the other end of a civil lawsuit, which can be a scary proposition. You may not have realized you did anything wrong, and now someone else is claiming you owe thousands or even millions of dollars?

Lawsuits should be taken seriously, but that's no reason to panic. Here's what you need to know if you've been sued.

Changed Circumstances for Asylum Application

Asylum is a form of humanitarian relief available to people who face persecution in their home countries based on specific criteria. Although affirmative asylum applications must be filed within one year of arrival in the United States, changed circumstances are an exception to the general rule.

A person may leave home and experience changes in their personal circumstances that make it impossible to safely return, or conditions in a country may transform, becoming dangerous. Immigration law recognizes that in some situations, changed circumstances necessitate filing an asylum application after the one-year deadline has passed. Let's consider.

While Second Amendment guarantees the right of all citizens to keep and bear arms, there are limits to Second Amendment protections. States can, for example, limit the type of weapons people can buy, regulate the licenses and background checks required to buy and carry firearms, and may even disqualify certain people from gun ownership. And the White House just tightened restrictions on who can sell guns.

But what about a gun that has already been purchased legally, then given as a gift or shared between spouses? Can a wife buy her husband a gun as a Christmas present? Can a husband lend his wife a gun for protection? Can a husband carry his husband's gun? Let's take a look.

How to Modify Joint Custody of Kids and Be the Sole Custodian

You currently share custody of your children, but maybe you'd like to change that. You'd prefer to be the sole custodian and want to know how to make that happen.

The general answer is that you will have to apply with the court that awarded joint custody, and you should probably prepare for some opposition. Let's consider here what kind of conditions or changed circumstances might justify a change in a custody arrangement and how to prepare to make your case for being the sole custodian.

A speech delivered by Melania Trump, wife of presidential candidate Donald Trump, garnered all kinds of attention for all the wrong reasons at the Republican National Convention this week. As many have pointed out, a large segment of her speech seems to have been lifted from a speech given first lady Michelle Obama at the Democratic National Convention in 2008.

A trump aide has since admitted to inadvertently included phrasing from Mrs. Obama's speech after Mrs. Trump read them to her over the phone, explaining why the two speeches sounded so similar. The aide resigned, but could she also be on the hook for copyright infringement? And who owns the copyright to a speech anyway?

Protecting Your Kids When Divorcing an Alcoholic

If you have kids and are divorcing an alcoholic or considering it, prepare for some additional difficulties. An alcoholic parent who is still drinking but is in denial may want to have custody of your children. But you know that the person can be a danger to the kids. If it is difficult to trust them and they are prone to drinking, then you must find a way to protect your children.

Laws vary from state to state, so you will have to research your local statutes and talk to an attorney near you. But let's look at some general principles when it comes to excessive drinking, raising children, and divorce.

Urban Gardening Laws

More and more people are turning their rooftops into gardens, front-yards into farms, and vacant lots into vegetable patches. And while the burgeoning urban garden movement can add beauty and affordable produce to any neighborhood, it can also bump up against a few city, state, and federal ordinances.

So if you're getting into urban agriculture to be more health conscious, eco conscious, or money conscious, make sure you're also conscious of the laws and statutes that might apply.

Managing Divorce From an Angry Spouse

Divorce is difficult. It usually does not bring out the best in people. Is your former true love jealous, superficial, greedy, a cheat, or just plain angry and crazy? If you don't know this already, you may find out soon.

Still, one of you will have to be reasonable, so you may as well choose that role. Your goal now is to dissolve your union as neatly and fairly as possible, and staying calm will really help. So, in addition to signing up for yoga or fight club or therapy to manage the emotional overload, take some practical steps to protect yourself and your assets.

Whether it's your first, or you're hoping it will be your last, buying a house can be an exciting time. It can also be a bit nerve-racking -- between finding the perfect home, having it inspected, negotiating a price, and signing all the right paperwork, buying a house isn't easy.

Which is why we're here to help. Below is some of our best legal advice for buying a home, from the FindLaw archives:

Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Support?

For parents who have been the victims of domestic abuse, or whose children have been, it can seem imperative to get as far away as possible from their abuser. But your child still needs financial support and you should not let fear of an abuser prevent you from seeking child support. You can get help to handle this. Domestic violence does not exempt or create support obligations, although it may impact the application and process.

Types of Asylum Applications

Asylum is a humanitarian form of immigration relief. It is available only to those who have experienced particular kinds of persecution. There are two types of asylum applications, affirmative and defensive. They are similar but arise under different circumstances.

An affirmative asylum application is for a person who comes to the U.S. and actively seeks relief within one year of entry in the country. Defensive asylum applications are for people who are placed in removal proceedings and seek to remain in the country, defending against deportation with a humanitarian claim. Asylum claims are complicated, whether affirmative or defensive, so let's consider the basics.

Yes, this whole Pokémon Go thing is crazy. It's got more daily users than Twitter, players are battling over the White House, and weather websites are telling users how to take advantage of lightning to catch Electrabuzz. Suffice it to say, while Pokémon Go may seem like just a digital game, its augmented reality platform means it is having some real world implications.

So before you hit the Pokémon gym this weekend and pump imaginary iron (that's how all of this works, right?), make sure you're aware of all the legal implications of playing Pokémon Go.

Can I Adopt With an Arrest or Conviction?

You're considering adoption but have an arrest or conviction in your past. Are you automatically disqualified? The simple answer is no. But adoption is a complicated process and the realistic answer to your question is more complex.

An arrest or conviction may not disqualify you but it might. The nature of the crime alleged, when it happened, how it was resolved, and how forthcoming you are, will all make a big difference in a decision. Let's consider the factors and how to handle disclosure.

Remember the lovely Michigan judge who sentenced three children to juvenile detention because they refused a court order to spend time with their father? She's back in the news, only this time she's the one being taken to task rather than the other way around.

A special master of Michigan's Judicial Tenure Commission found Judge Lisa Gorcyca committed several acts of misconduct in her handling of the visitation case, including "[f]ailing to act in a patient, dignified, judicial manner by making disparaging comments to the children about themselves, their siblings and their mother" While Gorcyca's punishment has yet to be determined, the report had some harsh words for the judge who contends her treatment of the children was merely "stern language."

Texas U. Profs Challenge New Campus Concealed Carry Gun Law

It's summertime and the livin' should be easy for college professors, who often have the season off. But last week, instead of enjoying summer vacation, a few University of Texas professors were busy filing a lawsuit in preparation for the coming semester.

Next month, a new law goes into effect that will allow handgun license holders over 21 to carry concealed firearms on campus. The professors argue that the guns are a danger in light of the many emotional social issues discussed in classes, according to U.S. News and World Report. They worry that discussion will be muted by the presence of weapons and argue that the new state law forces schools to adopt "dangerously experimental gun policies."

Let's face it, estate planning is not exactly exciting or uplifting. Pondering what will happen after you die can feel pretty morbid. But here's something we all know: dying with a will in place is better than dying without, for both your family and your assets.

So how do you get past all the unpleasantness and get yourself a plan? By answering the hard questions. Here are five of the toughest estate planning questions and why you need to answer them anyway:

Warrantless NSA Spying Case Faces Constitutional Challenge

If the government legally collects data on foreigners under a National Security Agency program, then uses the information to entrap an American, has the American's constitutional right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure been violated? The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland is now considering a case that asks this and it is believed by some to have implications for all of us.

The issue arises from the 2013 conviction of Mohamed Mohamud, also known as the Christmas tree bomber. Mohamud is a Somali-born American who argues he was entrapped by government agents into detonating a false bomb at a Christmas tree lighting in Oregon in 2010. Arguments were heard last week before a three-judge panel at a courthouse just across the street from where the foiled Christmas tree bomb plot took place, The Washington Post reports.

Not only are more and more college students graduating with student loan debt, they are owing more and more each year. Rising tuition costs coupled with graduate school means you could be entering the workforce with tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in school loan debt. And unless you're making hundreds of thousands of dollars per year, paying down that debt may seem unlikely or even impossible.

Never fear -- although the repayment process can be complicated, especially if you're behind or can't afford your payments, we've got answers to your most common student loan debt questions. Here they are, from our archives:

How to Avoid Marriage Fraud

A sham marriage is a union that was entered into fraudulently for the purposes of obtaining immigration benefits. If you get married because you want to become an American, and that is the basis for the marriage rather than a love story, your marriage is a sham.

Not every person who marries a US citizen can obtain a green card and citizenship ultimately. Those who marry for the benefit exclusively will be denied if their fraud is suspected and uncovered. The consequences could be dire, including deportation and incarceration.

Naming Power: 3 Reasons to Legally Change Your Name

Naming has power. To name a thing is to bring it to life and to give it a shape, whether it is living or inanimate. That is why, when people's lives change or they grow up and are old enough to have power over their own names, they sometimes change them. There are many reasons to go through a legal name change, most of which fall under a few general categories we'll consider here.

Can I Legally Be Fired for Taking Sick Days?

You are a worker in the USA, so you can get fired for anything, including calling in sick, or nothing, no reason at all. Your employer does not have to be fair. You just have to do your job and be grateful for it, or so says Glass Door, an employment guidance site.

Legally speaking, most employment contracts are at-will, meaning you can go and you can be let go for any reason or no reason. But employment is a relationship and you provide a service, so let us not live in fear. Try to be reasonable, and do your job, and you should not get fired for needing time unless your boss is a tyrant.

It's been a weird year for the Supreme Court. It lost arguably its highest profile and most controversial justice in February, with the passing of Antonin Scalia. He has yet to be replaced, but functioning with just eight justices has hardly slowed the Court down.

While it passed on a few cases and four 4-4 ties left lower decisions intact, the Supreme Court did hand down some massive decisions during its October 2015 term. Here are the three biggest:

Can My Landlord Come to Work to Collect My Rent?

It happens sometimes that people get behind on bills and rent. Maybe you had unexpected expenses, an emergency illness, or something else came up. If you are going to be late to pay and you know in advance, then you should definitely address this issue with your landlord.

But no, your landlord cannot harass you for money wherever you are known to go, and you do have recourse in the law if that happens. Let's consider rent, late payments, and the collections process.

You got a visa so that you could enter the United States lawfully and return without trouble. But now the clock is ticking and your visa is about to expire, and you're wondering what happens if you stay here anyway.

The consequences of overstaying a visa can be very severe or quite minimal, depending on your circumstances. Of course, your best bet is to try to extend a visa before it expires, and you do have that option, generally speaking. Let's see what else you can do.

You know you need legal advice. And you think you might need advice on finding legal advice. Well you've come to the right place. FindLaw is the number one online resource for consumer legal information, so we're experts at knowing when you'll need an attorney and how to find the best one.

To get you started, here are our top ten tips for hiring an attorney:

Family Court and Counsel FAQ

Family court is obviously the place where people address family legal matters. These courts cover a wide range of cases with quite different qualities, some of which overlap with other areas of the law.

There are happy matters like adoptions and sadder stories like divorce, but all family law matters have one thing in common. The people involved are emotional, even more so than in other types of cases arising in criminal or injury law.

Families are complicated. And so is the prospect of legally extricating yourself from your family. There is no technical definition of "disown" in the law, and whether you can sever your rights and responsibilities to your relatives depends on your relation to them. For instance, it may seem odd but it might be easier for kids to walk out on their parents than the other way around, legally speaking.

So if you've had enough of your folks, or think junior has overstayed his welcome, here's what you need to know about legally renouncing your family ties.