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

September 2017 Archives

It took President Trump six days to address the devastation that Hurricane Maria wreaked on Puerto Rico, a United States territory. And even then, the messages have been mixed. On Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said it did not expect to waive the Jones Act, a century-old regulation that limits shipping into Puerto Rico to U.S. flagged vessels. On Thursday, the Trump administration reversed course, temporarily waiving the Jones Act, ostensibly in an effort to get more aid to the island.

But how does the Jones Act really work? And will waiving it work to get more humanitarian aid to people in need?

There's no doubt that child custody determinations can be hotly contested battles between parents. So it's probably not surprising that not all parents play by the rules. Even though it may come from a place of love and caring for the child, some parents have been known to stretch the truth or lie during child custody hearings or on court documents in order to gain or maintain custody.

Parents have been known to fib about a child's proximity to friends and family, dissemble about their own drinking or drug use, and even falsify allegations of child abuse. Needless to say, you should never lie about child custody. And if you or your ex-spouse do, here's what can happen.

A new rule will allow the Department of Homeland Security to gather social media information for immigrants, including "social media handles, aliases, associated identifiable information, and search results." While this might seem like a normal update to the vetting process for incoming visitors or visa applications, the rule would reportedly also apply to people who have already obtained a green card or completed the naturalization process.

Additionally, the new rule could make U.S. citizens' conversations with immigrants on social media subject to government surveillance. Here's a look.

We know an apple a day keeps the doctor away, and even then, we know regular checkups with our doctor are healthy. We go to the dentist every six months (or at least we should) to make sure our teeth are clean and we don't have cavities. It's easy to understand the value of preventative medicine, but what about preventative legal advice.

Too often, we wait until a crisis before talking to an attorney, and, in many cases, by then it might be too late. Instead, try to avert a legal crisis by having an annual checkup with your lawyer.

The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a discrimination lawsuit against Michigan's Department of Health and Human Services, claiming the agency allows state-contracted and taxpayer-funded child placement agencies to use religious objections as a way to discriminate against qualified families based on their sexual orientation. The suit was filed on behalf of two same-sex couples who were denied the opportunity to adopt or foster children because of agencies' religious objections, as well as one woman who was in Michigan's foster care system as a teenager.

All are objecting to Michigan allocating taxpayer funds to adoption and foster services that discriminate against qualified parents and homes.

Top 5 Legal Tips Before Eloping

You want to get married on the fly, possibly in secret. But that doesn't mean you can't put some planning into your elopement. And if you want your secret marriage to last, in the legal sense at least, you'll want to be prepared.

Here is our best legal advice for eloping couples, from our archives:

Guns and Drugs: FAQ for Renters

Renting an apartment or house can be a tricky thing -- in so many ways, it's your space; but in so many other ways, it is clearly not. Can I paint this wall? What's the limit on house guests? Why can't my pit bull live here?

And varying opinions and state laws on marijuana and gun ownership can only complicate matters further. So here are some of the biggest questions regarding guns and drugs on rental properties, for renters:

Most of us don't think about what happens to people deported from the United States, or where they go. But that process can be pretty complicated and require the cooperation of other nations accepting deportees. And the Trump administration is accusing four nations of being less than cooperative in deportation efforts, and using that lack of cooperation to withhold visas from citizens of those countries looking to enter the U.S.

Reuters is reporting that the State Department will stop issuing certain kinds of visas to citizens of Cambodia, Eritrea, Guinea, and Sierra Leone in retaliation for those nations not taking back their citizens deported from the United States. It's just the latest flashpoint in President Trump's immigration crackdown.

Endangered and threatened species are protected for a reason: once a species is extinct, there's no bringing it back. (Sorry, Jurassic Park aficionados.) So the Endangered Species Act aims to protect threatened and endangered species of plants and animals, as well as the habitats in which they are found.

So what happens if someone kills an endangered species? The answer to almost every legal question is: it depends. And when it comes to endangered species, it will generally depend on who's doing the killing.

Top 5 Legal Tips for Teens

Teenagers seem to occupy a social and emotional middle ground: not children, but not quite adults; so much responsibility, but not all of it; independent in so many ways, dependent in others. Much of that is also true when it comes to legal grounds.

The law is a little different when it comes to teenagers, so here are some of our best legal tips for teens, from our archives:

Normally if you're concerned with ice at a hotel, it's locating the nearest machine to your room. There was a different concern for guests at two Motel 6 locations in Phoenix, Arizona -- that employees were calling ICE to report guests who may be in the country illegally.

A recent news investigation found at least 20 Immigration and Customs Enforcement arrests made at those locations, and some of those arrested claim no one else knew they were there. So how did immigration enforcement know?

What Is Prejudgment Interest?

When you win your court case, you will generally receive monetary damages. Damages come in a few different forms, such as those meant to pay back medical bills and those meant to compensate for lost wages or pain and suffering.

In a court case, a party seeking a judgment, or a monetary award, can also be entitled to prejudgment interest if they win. Prejudgment interest is essentially additional money that a court can award based on the interest that the judgment would have earned over the period of time from when the claimant was entitled to receive those monies.

The internet has gobbled up everything from our shopping to our social lives, to the point that even the most committed luddites have trouble staying offline. But as many of us know, going online can get you into serious legal trouble.

Many of us just accept that internet use comes with some risk to our privacy, personal finances, and even psychological wellbeing. But here are some of the most recent developments in internet law, and some ways to minimize or eliminate those risks:

'Every woman dreads getting period symptoms when they're not expecting them,' said Alisha Coleman, 'but I never thought I could be fired for it.' It's not a legal question often asked, but Coleman should know better than most. She was fired from a 911 call center in Georgia, allegedly after experiencing heavy menstrual symptoms related to the onset of menopause while at work.

With help from the American Civil Liberties Union, she is now suing her former employer, the Bobby Dodd Institute, for gender discrimination. "I don't want any woman to have to go through what I did," Coleman stated.

Donald Trump's new Education Secretary Betsy DeVos announced plans to rescind a six-year-old policy issued by Barack Obama's administration that advised colleges and universities on how to handle sexual assault allegations on campus. "Washington has burdened schools with increasingly elaborate and confusing guidelines that even lawyers find difficult to understand and navigate," DeVos told a crowd at George Mason University. "That's why we must do better, because the current approach isn't working."

But DeVos wasn't as clear about what the new approach would look like as she was about rebuking the old approach. So where does that leave victims, alleged abusers, and schools trying to meet their legal obligations?

In the wake of President Donald Trump's proclamation that openly transgender individuals be discharged from the military, in addition to the lawsuits, there has been some pushback from an unexpected source: the Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis.

After sources reported that the general was appalled by the president's proclamation, soon after, he came out with a plan that effectively puts the ban on hold. While socially, and politically, transgender rights are a polarizing and controversial issue, it may not be possible to read anything more than prudence into Mattis's actions. Making a sweeping change like this to the military requires careful planning and assessment.

Remember Seth Rogen's character in Pineapple Express? No, he wasn't a butler -- he was a process server, an obscure yet essential part of the legal system tasked with delivering the bad news of a lawsuit to the person being sued. After all, if people don't know they're being haled into court, it's kind of hard to defend themselves.

Because service of process is the necessary first step to a lawsuit, many think if they can just avoid the process server for long enough, they can't be sued (hence Rogen's disguises). But is that true?