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

July 2017 Archives

Under federal and most state civil rights laws, protected classes can extend beyond the protected class to those individuals who are associated with the individuals in those classes. The association can be clear and obvious, such as between spouses, or family members, but can even be applied to friends, co-workers, and attorneys.

For instance, when a person in a wheelchair and a companion are denied access to a restaurant because the restaurant does not have a wheelchair accessible entry, both will have valid discrimination claims against the business under the ADA. Clearly the wheelchair user suffered the adverse effects of the discrimination directly, but their companion also was independently harmed by the discrimination as well, as they were denied the ability to enter the business with their companion. 

If a parent ends up in a situation where they cannot properly care for their children, the children may be placed in foster care. But those situations may not always be permanent. While there are instances where parental rights have been terminated, those rights can be reinstated under the right circumstances.

If your child has been placed with foster parents or a foster family, you might desperately want to get them back, or at least out of foster care. Here are a couple paths you can take to get your children out of foster care.

You just brought a baby into the world, so you're probably not thinking about passing away any time soon. Sadly, that's the mindset of many new parents, and then tragedy strikes, leaving a young family without an estate plan.

It may sound morbid to start planning for the end of your life when you just began a new one, but it can be essential to making sure your children are taken care of. Here's what new parents need to know about estate planning.

Naturalization describes the process by which people not born in the United States or to U.S.-citizen parents can become citizens themselves, a process that can be long, extensive, and complicated. Given the language barrier, the numerous necessary documents, and the unfamiliarity with the naturalization process, many immigrants seeking citizenship never begin the process, get swamped in legalese, or have their applications denied.

While there is no statutory requirement for you to hire an immigration lawyer to file for citizenship, you may want to have someone with some professional experience on your side to guide you through the naturalization process.

Generally speaking, once you sell your house, the buyer is free to do with it what they will. This can be a hard fact of life for some who, despite the need or desire to sell their home, is still emotionally attached to the place they once lived. New homeowners are normally free to paint the house some gaudy yellow color, tear out the kitchen cabinets you installed, and even rip out your favorite plants.

But in some instances there may be ways for sellers to place conditions or restrictions on the home sale. Here's a look.

Like our annual tax filings, the majority of us want to avoid a bankruptcy filing like the plague. But, just like the tax system, there are those among us that try to game the bankruptcy system to their advantage. And bankruptcy courts, just like the IRS, will occasionally audit filings to weed out fraud and misrepresentations.

While not all bankruptcy filings will be audited, the possibility that your Chapter 7 filing might be is a powerful deterrent to fudging any numbers regarding your assets or your income. Here's what you need to know about a possible Chapter 7 bankruptcy audit.

Betty Dukes, the lead plaintiff in the Dukes v. Walmart class action case filed back in 2001, died this month at the age of 67. While the cause has not been announced, Ms. Dukes will be remembered as a fighter. As a result of her devotion to fighting for equal rights, she became known more than just locally, where she lived in Antioch, California. In fact, class action lawyers likely won't forget her name for years to come.

Dukes had a reputation for helping people. Whether it was feeding the hungry, or standing up for equal rights, she was determined to make a difference.

Domestic violence victims often have trouble leaving abusive relationships, despite the threat and reality of physical or emotional harm. Whether due to financial, psychological, or even physical factors, many victims don't feel like they have the option to get away or get help.

But there are resources out there for those in need. From the National Sexual Violence Resource Center to the Hotline, victims can get help in exiting a physically or emotionally violent relationship. And here are some legal resources for escaping domestic violence.

What's Fair Market Value?

While the phrase "fair market value" might seem simple enough to understand, legally, the phrase is rather significant. Fair market value generally refers to what services, or a piece of property, are actually worth, rather than what they cost. Fair market value matters quite a bit when it comes to legal matters.

For example, in a car accident, a totaled car is not valued at the price when purchased new, but rather, at its fair market value. A car's fair market value is the value right before the accident. The law will not translate sentimentality into dollars, though regular maintenance and improvements can add to the fair market value, just like it would to the sale price.

The repayment time of a home mortgage loan can run anywhere from 10 to 50 years, and a lot can happen in that amount of time. You may need to relocate for work, or want to relocate for retirement. You may add children to your nest or become empty nesters, necessitating more or less space. Or maybe it turns out the house you bought just isn't for you.

There many reasons we would want to sell a home, but is it possible to sell your home if you haven't paid it off yet? Here's what you need to know, legally, about selling a home if you still owe money on your mortgage.

We've all heard horror stories about homeowners' associations, imposing fines or even eviction notices on residents for grass that's too brown, playhouses that are too pink, families that are too big, and yard decorations that are too time-travely. And while all those stories seem ridiculous, the standard legal response is often, "Well, that's what you get with an HOA -- gotta abide by the agreement."

But what if a community is saying you can't buy or inherent a home because you practice the wrong religion or you're not religious enough? Surely that has to be illegal, right?

Love works in mysterious ways. And to some, so does the criminal justice system. Most crimes don't stop following those convicted once they're released from jail, and sex crimes especially can haunt perpetrators for years, decades, or their whole life. For those offenders, and the people who love them, sex offender registration can impact everything from residency to employment to marriage.

While inclusion on a sex offender registry is not a per se bar to marriage, restrictions stemming from the registration and other conditions of probation or parole can impact romantic relationships. Here's a look at what you need to know about getting married to a registered sex offender.

Stories of squatters gaining title to the properties they trespass upon are the urban legends that keep landowners awake at night. Under adverse possession laws, it is actually possible, albeit rather difficult, for a squatter to gain legal title.

Landowners need to be aware of their rights when dealing with squatters, as many jurisdictions do provide squatters with some legal protections. For instance, if a squatter is actually a holdover tenant, or sub-tenant, meaning a renter who has stayed beyond the terms of their rental agreement, the formal eviction process will likely be required to remove the squatter.

Tami Barker, a former Airbnb host in California, settled a civil rights complaint against her for $5,000, and has agreed to a whole host of other demands, after it was discovered that she discriminated against an Asian renter. Dyne Suh, and a few friends, had rented Barker's cabin through Airbnb. However, when Barker realized Suh was Asian, she cancelled the reservation, hours before it was set to begin.

Even though a last minute cancellation may be incredibly rude, it would not have been discriminatory but for what the host texted to Suh. In short, Barker sent Suh text messages essentially stating she didn't like Asians and foreigners, and further asserting that Trump's victory allowed her to discriminate. Airbnb and California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing did not agree with Barker, and took action.

Being a stepparent is no simple task. Children will eventually rebel against their parents, and stepparents are easy targets. Unfortunately, stepparents are often caught in the middle, or left in the dark, when it comes to decisions involving their stepchildren.

Stepparents do have some rights, but those rights are typically limited to what the legal parents allow.

Below, you'll find five of the top legal questions stepparents ask about their rights.

In life, mistakes happen. Sometimes a little mistake can be corrected, other times, even a little mistake can be unforgivable. Luckily, there's divorce. But what happens when your divorce lawyer makes a mistake?

In a legal case, like in life, when an attorney makes a mistake, sometimes it matters, and sometimes it just doesn't matter, legally, financially, or in the grand scheme of things. However, when it's your divorce case, no matter how inconsequential the mistake may be in reality, any mistake is a big one. Sadly, that's just not true. Generally, for a mistake to actually matter, or rise to the level of legal malpractice, a client must suffer damages or other losses as a result.

When it comes to renting a home, a good landlord can make all the difference. However, even good landlords, like everyone else, will experience life as it comes at them, and their tenants or properties can sometimes take a backseat. But when problems within a rental unit persist, a tenant may find it necessary to withhold rent until the problems are corrected.

However, tenants need to be very careful when doing so, follow their state or local laws, and provide ample notice. Not following the rules can lead to an eviction for failing to pay rent, as that is a clear breach of a rental agreement. If your landlord refuses to make a repair, or just refuses to return your call, it may be your only option. Withholding rent (or deducting and repairing) the right way can help ensure that your landlord cannot evict you for doing so.

A stepparent will generally not be required to pay child support for a spouse's children from a prior relationship. Courts usually will not even consider how much a stepparent earns. However, depending on the specific facts of a case, a stepparent's income can still make a significant difference in the amount of support that must be paid for a biological parent.

As a preliminary matter, because child support is usually based on a percentage of a parent's net income, after getting married, a parent's net income may increase due to tax benefits. Other factors, such as a decrease in the cost of living for a remarried spouse, can also be factored in by a court to reduce a child support award. In the end, while a stepparent usually cannot be forced to pay, or have their wages garnished, if their spouse is paying child support, they are paying too, even if they're not legally liable.

Although science tells us that hugging and the human touch are essential for proper human development, in the workplace, supervisors, managers, and even co-workers that give hugs are playing with fire. This is due to the fact that employees may be too timid, or even just afraid, of telling a superior that a hug, or other form of touching, like a pat on the back, is unwanted.

Whether a hug will constitute sexual harassment really depends on the circumstances. Both perspectives, of the hug giver and receiver, matter, but the receiver's view is much more important. If a person is hugged despite objecting, then it will be considered an unwanted touching to which individuals do not have to submit. Also, when a hug goes on for longer than a second or two, or includes rubbing or patting, it will be much more likely to be considered sexual harassment regardless of a hug giver's intent.