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

November 2011 Archives

What Can Child Support Be Used For?

Divorce can rattle even the most secure parents. It can also leave those parents who don’t have physical custody worried about how their ex-spouse is taking care of their children and spending their child support. This leaves many individuals with one lingering question on their mind: what is child support used for?

In a previous blog post, we discussed how one of Kanye West’s lyrics from his 2005 hit Gold Digger depicted a woman using child support payments for liposuction. Of course, Kanye’s example may be on the extreme side. Child support generally only covers expenses incurred when taking care of children.

Below is an outline of some legitimate uses of child support:

What Does AA's Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Mean?

American Airlines made waves this week when the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The company said the move was spurred by high labor costs and the downturn in the economy.

The airline hasn’t been the only one hit with high costs and financial instability from its high pension cost. Carriers like American have also had a difficult time competing against discount airlines.

However, many individuals are not particularly familiar with Chapter 11. What exactly will happen to the company in the process?

Officials Remove 200-Pound Boy, 8, From Home

A 200-pound boy was removed from his home last month by Children and Family Services in Cleveland Heights, Ohio. At 8-years-old, the third grader should only weigh about 60 pounds.

Officials were made aware of the child's weight last year when he was diagnosed with sleep apnea at a local hospital. They spent 20 months working with the family before the boy's removal, but stepped in when he began to gain weight at a rapid pace.

A judge approved the county's decision, citing medical neglect.

Ind. Mother Sues School Over Son's Suicide

Indiana woman Natalie Moore is filing a lawsuit over her son's bullying suicide. The lawsuit claims that instructors and administrators at the Hamilton Southeastern Junior High and High School did not do enough to stop bullying incidents. She says that they ignored the fact that her son, Jamarcus Bell, was constantly harassed at school for his "perceived homosexuality and emotional disability."

Bell had previously tried to hang himself in a janitor's closet at the junior high school. In 2010, he killed himself at his mother's home.

Deaf Man Held for 25 Days Without Interpreter

A new lawsuit alleges that a deaf man was held in county jail for 25 days without a sign language interpreter before the charges against him were eventually dropped. The suit was filed against Adams County, Colorado.

Timothy Siaki filed the claim in federal court. He says that officials violated the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Siaki was arrested on May 14, 2010 at a motel over a noise complaint. Siaki and his fiancé, Kimberlee Moore, were arguing. Moore is also hearing impaired. Officials reportedly knocked down the motel room door and tackled Siaki to the floor when he didn't respond to their orders to open up.

Pregnancy Discrimination Still a Problem

As temperatures drop and holiday cheer increases, some may find themselves trying for a baby. Though it's fun to focus on tiny clothes and pretty nurseries, it's also important to talk about the changing financial situation.

If the mother-to-be works, pregnancy discrimination should be part of that discussion.

Though the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978 has been in force for quite some time, pregnancy discrimination is a persistent problem. The number of complaints filed with the EEOC have skyrocketed in recent years, reaching 6,119 in 2010.

GA Man Fired, Refused to Wear '666' Sticker

Georgia man and devout Christian Billy E. Hyatt worked in a factory. His plant, Berry Plastics Corp., required employees to wear stickers with the number of days they have gone accident-free. As the numbers approached the “666” mark, Hyatt became concerned. He didn’t want to wear a “666” sticker.

To him, that number was the “mark of the beast” as proclaimed in the Bible’s Book of Revelation.

He believed that if he wore the mark he would be “condemned to hell.” He explained the situation to the manager, who at first seemed receptive to his beliefs. Until the “666” day actually came, at which point the manager told Hyatt he needed to wear the sticker if he didn’t want to face a three-day suspension. Hyatt took the suspension, but was fired several days later.

Obama Pardons Humans, Not Turkeys

You read that right. As a precursor to Wednesday's annual presidential turkey pardon, President Obama has pardoned real live people. He even issued a commutation, too.

President Obama's pardons include three men convicted of federal marijuana charges, one convicted of transporting stolen property, and another of illegal gambling. The commutation -- the first of his presidency -- involves Eugenia Marie Jennings, who was convicted in 2001 for distributing cocaine.

Parents of 'Hitler' Have 4th Child Removed

New Jersey couple Heath and Deborah Campbell made headlines when they gave their three children Nazi-inspired names, including one son that they named "Adolf Hitler." The state had their three children removed two years ago.

The other two children bore names like JoceLynn Aryan Nation Campbell and Honszlynn Hinler Jeannie Campbell. They have remained in foster care.

Their fourth son, named Hons Campbell, was removed last Thursday at Hunterdon Medical Center after Deborah Campbell gave birth. She says that her physician called the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services who arrived to take custody of the child.

Redistricting Woes Continue to Spread

It's time for congressional redistricting 2011, and things are starting to get a little contentious. Arizona's Governor fired the head of the state's Independent Redistricting Commission, and the Colorado Supreme Court flat out rejected the state's new legislative maps.

And then there's Texas, where the redistricting battle is being fought in the D.C. Circuit and in front of a 3-judge panel in San Antonio.

What's with all the drama?

Is Pizza a Vegetable?

Many parents encourage their children to eat their vegetables - but they usually don't mean "eat some pizza." Pizza as a vegetable has long been a mainstay in student meals. And now, Congress might soon be blocking new USDA standards for federally-funded school lunches that would have encouraged what many consider healthier choices - and eliminated pizza's classification as a veggie.

This move comes after Congress decided to propose legislation that eliminates funding for the new standards in an effort to reduce costs.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives voted to pass the bill. It will go onto the Senate for approval.

The controversial SOPA copyright bill is coming under fire from influential lawmakers, as fears spread about the proposed law's penalties -- including possible prison time for posting copyrighted material online.

House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi chose an apt forum to go public with her criticism. "Need to find a better solution than #SOPA #DontBreakTheInternet," Pelosi said Thursday via Twitter, Reuters reports.

Congressman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., made his comments offline, saying SOPA has no chance of passing. "There are so many unintended consequences," Issa told The Hill newspaper.

Cal. Supremes Vote for Prop 8 Supporters

The California Supreme Court has ruled on the same-sex marriage case, unanimously finding that supporters of Proposition 8 have a right to defend their cause in court.

Proponents of the gay marriage ban had appealed a lower court decision striking down Prop 8 as unconstitutional. But when they appealed to the 9th Circuit, the appellate court questioned whether they had standing (the right to come before the court) to sue.

The court asked the highest state court in California to weigh in, and now they have.

Illegal Immigrants Cost LA Congress Seat?

The state of Louisiana says that they are about to be one congressional seat short and it's all because illegal immigrants are included in the national census.

Attorney General Buddy Caldwell has filed suit in the U.S. Supreme Court. They are asking that illegal immigrants be excluded from the national census when it comes to figuring out how to divide up seats to the House of Representatives.

Unlike the Senate, the House's seats are apportioned according to population. Louisiana says that if illegal immigrants were excluded from the census, states with a higher number of undocumented individuals should get less representation. And, states with less illegal aliens should get more.

Weed, the People: America is Embracing Marijuana

Support for legalizing marijuana is growing, if recent statistics are any indication. According to a survey conducted by Gallup, 50% of Americans say that marijuana should be legal.

This is up from 46% last year. And, historical trends show that in 1969 only 12% of Americans favored legalizing marijuana.

What else do Americans think about marijuana? 

10 Best States for Getting a Divorce

Divorce is in the air. Or not. But if you happen to be contemplating one, you probably want to know which is the best state for divorce.

There is no overall “best” place to get a divorce—it all depends on you. For instance, those divorcing cheaters can avoid alimony if they file in Georgia. And only some states split assets 50/50, so stay-at-home parents have a tough decision to make.

Nonetheless, Bloomberg has ranked all 50 states from best to worst. They contemplated wait times, separation periods, residency requirements and fees. These are their top 10.

Judge Rules Against Occupy Wall Street Camp

New York's Zuccotti Park will remain clear of tents following Judge Michael Stallman's ruling against the encampment. Stallman's decision declares that the Occupy Wall Street protestor's First Amendment rights do not extend to indefinite camping in the plaza.

The ruling came down hours after Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Lucy Billings issued a temporary order allowing protestors back onto the grounds.

There was a lot of legal wrangling going on in New York. The timeline of the events is as follows:

Your Free Range Turkey May Not be All that Free

It's nearly that time of the year again. Family members from across the nation will soon be congregating at your dinner table, eager to get a slice of that free range turkey you purchased at your local grocery store.

Before you selected this year's bird, you probably read its packaging, including the poultry label touting it as "free range."

But you might wonder what the truth is behind these labels. And what the USDA actually requires of producers.

Sex Change Surgery Now Tax Deductible

Sex change surgeries are now tax deductible. Those who undergo gender reassignment surgery will now be able to deduct these costs from their taxes according to the Internal Revenue Service.

The IRS has recently notified the Tax Court that it will abide by its 2010 decision that allowed Rhiannon O'Donnabhain to deduct the $5,000 she spent on the surgery.

O'Donnabhain was born male and fathered three children. She was married but divorced in 1996, and had the surgery in 2002. She underwent an IRS audit in 2003, and the lawsuit was filed in 2006. She told the court she was uncomfortable with her gender starting at age 10.

A campaign to create Confederate flag license plates in Texas is history.

The state's Department of Motor Vehicles Board last week rejected a proposal to produce special Texas license plates with a group's Confederate flag logo.

The Sons of Confederate Veterans pushed for the plates, citing Confederate pride and the need to honor Civil War sacrifices.

Opponents -- including Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who is running for president -- felt the plates were divisive, and that the rebel flag could evoke racism.

Should Nurses Be Paid to Put On Scrubs?

It takes approximately 15 minutes for a nurse to change into and out of her scrubs. Or so says a lawsuit filed by Natalie Fiore and Lisa Stransky, nurses at Colorado's Aurora Medical Center.

The nurses' scrub lawsuit argues that the hospital's nurses should be paid for changing their clothes. Employees are required to wear the hospital's scrubs, but are not allowed to take them home.

Instead, they must show up 15 minutes early and locate the proper sized scrubs. Once they change, they can clock in and start working.

Police May Be Able to Secretly Monitor Your Phone

Cell phone tracking, a method more prevalent than GPS and wiretaps, sometimes doesn't require authorities to take out a search warrant.

This means that in some cases, individuals don't even know their cell phone has been tracked until location evidence is lodged against them during a criminal trial. Some might wonder if this is even legal in the first place.

Cell phone tracing has become a mainstay in law enforcement authorities' tool belt, but the legality of their use without a warrant is unclear.

Jefferson County, AL: Biggest Muni Bankruptcy Ever

Jefferson County, Alabama, has filed for Chapter 9 protection in the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history.

Jefferson County is the most populous county in the state, with 660,000 residents. It's also home to the state's economic powerhouse, Birmingham.

County commissioners voted 4-1 for the bankruptcy after a September deal over the $3.14 billion deficit fell apart. The commission says it was because creditors refused to agree to economic concessions. The effects of the Chapter 9 filing may be felt by ordinary consumers.

A new study about student sexual harassment may be eye-opening for adults: Sexual harassment in schools is pervasive, and seems to affect girls more than boys.

What's more, half of students who experienced harassment say they did nothing in response.

The study by the American Association of University Women comes as sexual harassment dominates national discussion.

Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain, for one, has denied allegations that he sexually harassed at least four women in the past.

Spouses Use Obese Kids in Custody Fights

Obesity and custody. Custody and obesity. They don't seem to go hand in hand, but according to the Wall Street Journal, they do.

Spouses caught in child custody battles are increasingly using diet and weight to show that one parent is unfit to be the primary caregiver. They point to processed fast food and a lack of physical activity as reasons to be concerned.

There's no doubt that obesity leads to health problems, but should it factor into the court's decision?

15-Cent Christmas Tree Tax Approved

O Christmas Tree Tax! O Christmas Tree Tax! Much pleasure thou can't give me!

The Christmas tree industry is taxing itself. Or shall we say, it is passing a 15-cent self-imposed tax onto consumers. And all with the government's approval.

The Agricultural Marketing Service (USDA) has created a new industry-funded Christmas tree promotion program, which places a 15-cent tax on each produced or imported tree.

The money will be used improve the public's perception of real, live, trees.

Who Can Legally Travel to Cuba?

Earlier this year, President Obama lifted restrictions put in place by the Bush Administration, making it easier for American citizens to legally travel to Cuba.

Though access has increased, it is not unlimited. Most U.S. citizens cannot spend money in Cuba, or engage in travel-related transactions to and from the country. They thus can't legally travel to Cuba, even if they go through Canada or Latin America.

It is only those who are granted a general or specific license by the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) that may travel to Cuba.

Judge Orders Couple to Exchange Facebook Passwords

Would you want to give your soon-to-be ex-spouse your Facebook password? Probably not. But if you ever go in front of Connecticut's Judge Kenneth Shluger, you may have to.

Judge Shluger has ordered Stephen Gallion and his wife Courtney to exchange Facebook and dating site passwords. Once received, their attorneys are free to research online behavior and use private communications in the divorce.

One little password may ultimately influence whether Stephen receives full custody of the couple's children.

Juror's Blogging Didn't Affect $4.75M Verdict

When writer Eve Bradshaw took to the jury box in 2009, she turned her personal blog into a jury duty blog. Six entries and a $4.75 million verdict later, she found herself at the center of a controversy.

She violated a court order when she publicly spoke about the trial. Were her blog posts enough to overturn the verdict? And did they describe improper jury deliberations?

An Illinois appellate court doesn't think so.

Just days before Veteran's Day, President Obama has unveiled three new programs to help with veterans' job searches.

The new programs come as Congress is set to vote on giving businesses tax breaks for hiring veterans. Due to a scheduling issue, that bill probably won't be passed until after Veteran's Day, the Navy Times reports.

Tired of taking fire for a stalled economy, President Obama made his veterans' jobs push part of his "We Can't Wait" economic recovery tour. The three new programs announced today are:

'You Want a Job, Right?' - Herman Cain

Sharon Bialek is the fourth woman to accuse GOP presidential candidate Herman Cain of sexual harassment. Accompanied by attorney Gloria Allred, she held a press conference this morning and told the following story.

In 1997, Bialek was employed by the National Restaurant Association's (NRA) education foundation. At this time, Herman Cain was the NRA's president. Just prior to the incident, Bialek alleges that Cain offered to help her find a job with a state restaurant association.

As they sat in a car, he allegedly his hand under her skirt and pulled her head toward his crotch. When she objected, he said, "You want a job, right?"

 Can Sharon Bialek sue for this alleged sexual harassment?

'Please Don't Bring Your Gun to Church'

Guns in church.

Few would guess it, but guns in church are a huge issue for religious gun advocates. In fact, it's so important that the Wisconsin Catholic Church has decided to weigh in.

And it wants parishioners to leave their guns at home. This is in spite of the state's new concealed weapons law.

This is a real-life kitchen nightmare: A chef at a Morton's steakhouse sued his ex-coworkers for attempting to rape him in the restaurant. The Morton's lawsuit details some appalling and disgusting behavior going on at the chain's Boca Raton, Fla. location.

It at all began when a cook stuffed asparagus down his pants. The stalks were then served to unsuspecting diners.

Daughter Removed Over $5 Safeway 'Sandwich Theft'

A Hawaii couple was shopping in a local grocery store when the wife, Nicole Leszczynski, felt faint. She was 30 weeks pregnant, so she and her husband decided to munch on two $5 sandwiches while shopping.

Except during the course of their trip, they forgot to pay for their impromptu meal. The couple was arrested for the sandwich theft and their 3-year-old daughter was taken away from them by Child Protective Services. The simple errand officially turned into a nightmare.

How could a parent lose their child like this?

Muslims, Obama Voters Not Welcome in TX Gun Safety Class

Crocket Keller's gun glass is open to all: except non-Christian Muslims and those that voted for President Obama. Keller purchased some radio air time for his concealed hand gun course, held at the Keller's Riverside Store in Texas.

During one part of the advertisement, Keller specifically includes a disclaimer that says he excludes liberals and Muslims.

Why? It's because these two classes of individuals "have already proven" that they are unable to "make a knowledgeable and prudent decision as under the law."

Is this kind of discrimination legal?

Can I Be Fired for Taking Part in Occupy Protests?

Can you be fired for protesting?

Substitute teacher Patricia McAllister was fired in mid-October after making a public comment about "Zionist Jews" at Occupy Los Angeles. Ten days later, Caitlin Curran, of public radio's The Takeaway, was fired after a photo of her at Occupy Wall Street surfaced online.

Were these women legally fired? And should other Occupy protesters be concerned?