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

July 2014 Archives

5 Things a Child Custody Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't)

Disputes regarding child custody can be contentious and grueling, even under the best of circumstances.

Navigating the complex legal process with your child's future on the line can be stressful, frightening, and potentially riddled with hidden legal pitfalls. Having an experienced child custody attorney on your side can make a big difference in terms of both the outcome, and the toll taken by a protracted child custody case.

Why? Here are five things a child custody lawyer can do that you probably can't:

Moving Out of State? 3 Estate-Planning Consequences to Consider

Moving to another state can be a stressful process. The last thing you want is to add the headache of estate law problems to your growing list of worries. But America is constantly moving. The U.S. Census Bureau reports that almost 36 million U.S. residents moved between 2012 and 2013.

Give yourself a moment, put down the boxes, and read about three estate consequences of an out-of-state move that you may not have considered:

What Is Divorce Mediation? How Does It Work?

When facing divorce, mediation may be a fantastic alternative to an acrimonious adversarial proceeding. But what is divorce mediation?

Mediation is a cooperative form of dispute resolution that attempts to bring divorcing spouses to the realization that by working together, the easier it will be for them to part.

So what goes on in divorce mediation, and how does it work?

Legal How-To: Renewing Your Passport

If you're planning some international travel, making sure your passport is valid can save not only time and money, but also prevent the potential worst-case scenario of getting turned back at the airport or the border.

If your passport is expired, you'll need to renew it. Even if your passport is still good for a few more months, you'll likely need to renew it. According to the U.S. Department of State website, some countries require that a passport be valid at least six months beyond the date of your trip, and some airlines will refuse to let you fly if this requirement isn't satisfied.

So how do you go about renewing your passport?

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Gay Marriage Update: 4th Circuit, Fla. Court Strike Down Bans

The East Coast has been a legal battleground for gay marriage of late, with the federal 4th Circuit and a state court in Florida striking down same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional.

In Florida, a state court judge in Miami-Dade County ruled against the Sunshine State's prohibition on gay marriage, but it won't mean same-sex nuptials in the state just yet. Meantime, a federal appellate court upheld a lower court's ruling, striking down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage and potentially changing the legal field in five states.

How are Florida and Virginia shaping gay marriage in the United States?

When Will Lawyers Answer Questions for Free?

When will lawyers answer questions for free? The lawyerly answer is, "It depends."

For example, we here at FindLaw strive to provide free daily analysis of legal questions that confront Americans in their everyday lives. And many of our writers (including yours truly) are attorneys.

But aside from FindLaw, how can you get free answers to your pressing legal inquiries? Here are several instances you can get licensed legal minds to answer your questions, without paying a dime:

Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'B'

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

Welcome to the second installment of our new Sunday blog series, Legalese From A to Z.

As part of this continuing series, we'll be taking a closer look at legal terminology that may be unfamiliar to non-lawyers. We started last week with the letter "A," so today we take on five legal terms that begin with the letter "B":

Is It Legal to Feed Wild Animals?

When out in nature, you may feel the urge to feed any wild animals you might encounter.

However, as your legal guides through the forest of state and federal laws, we strongly encourage you to resist that temptation. Not only is this practice bad for the animals you feed, but your "kindness" by feeding wildlife can potentially lead to your arrest.

Here are some general rules about when it is and isn't legal to feed wild animals:

Is Absinthe Legal in the U.S.?

Absinthe has long been rumored to be illegal in the United States, yet brands like Lucid and St. George openly sell their absinthe products in liquor stores across the nation. So why all the hubbub about absinthe?

The liquor traditionally made from wormwood has a murky legal history in the United States and abroad, which has led absinthe producers to only recently begin marketing to Americans.

Acknowledging this background, is absinthe legal?

N.C. High School to Monitor Students' Social Media Posts

One North Carolina school district is going to great lengths to monitor its students' social media habits, paying thousands to a third party to scan students' posts.

Jackson County Schools are contracting with Social Sentinel Inc. in a pilot project that will use computer algorithms to scan student social media posts for safety or security threats, reports The Sylva Herald. The program will be launched at Smoky Mountain High School in Sylva this fall, and will cost $9,500 for the first year.

But will students be paying the price in privacy?

For Nat'l Cousins Day, 3 Legal Facts About Cousin Relations

July 24 is National Cousins Day, a day to celebrate and reflect on the strong relationships between cousins. However, the law doesn't hold some relations between cousins in such high esteem; indeed, some may even be criminal. Marriage or sex, for example, may be completely out of the question.

So on this National Cousins Day, here are three things you should know about relationships between cousins:

Dog Custody a Bone of Contention in Ill. Couple's Divorce

The big issue in an Illinois divorce case, which has been going on for two years, isn't who gets the family home or custody of children, but rather: Who gets the dog?

Paul Barthel says he merely wants visitation rights with Pepper, the black lab/German shepherd mix that the he and his estranged wife Susan owned together, reports the Chicago Sun-Times. But Susan claims Paul's attempts to win pet visitation rights are merely a ploy to prolong the case and increase her costs. Susan was granted a protective order against Paul, barring him from trying to contact or get near her -- or the dog.

What prompted the protective order, and how does a court decide custody of pets in a divorce?

Obamacare Subsidies Curbed by D.C. Circuit Ruling

Obamacare subsidies may not be available to some customers after a federal appellate court redefined the federal government's role in doling out these tax credits.

A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 Tuesday in Halbig v. Burwell that when the Affordable Care Act authorized the federal government to give subsidies, it only allowed those credits to go to customers who purchased insurance via a state-run insurance exchange. CBS News reports that 36 states rely on "federally-run Obamacare marketplaces," which may be denied subsidies under this new ruling.

What should consumers know about this Obamacare decision?

Legal How-To: Evicting a Roommate

How do you legally evict a roommate? While the answer depends on your specific situation, there are some general principles to keep in mind.

Although getting a roommate can be a great way to share the costs of renting a house or apartment, sometimes things just don't work out. But similar to when a landlord wants to evict a tenant, you'll want to make sure the law is on your side when considering evicting a roommate. A wrongful eviction may subject you to legal liability, which can be quite costly to resolve.

So how should you evict a roommate? Here are some general guidelines:

5 Reasons You Shouldn't Wait to Call an Estate Planning Lawyer

Estate planning is a subject some people would rather avoid. After all, making arrangements for what happens to your assets following your own death isn't necessarily a pleasant subject.

But consulting with an experienced estate planning lawyer is something you should consider doing sooner, rather than later. Why?

Here are five reasons you shouldn't wait to call an estate planning lawyer:

Unpaid Parking Tickets: What Can Happen?

Ignoring an unpaid parking ticket can have nasty consequences despite how ridiculous or petty you think the parking offense is.

Unpaid parking tickets, when left unresolved, can cause double or triple fines to be imposed, your car to be towed, and even your license to be suspended.

So don't just shove that parking ticket into your glove box. Here are a few things that can happen when you ignore unpaid parking tickets:

Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'A'

Legalese From A to Z - FindLaw

Do you speak legalese? No, it's not a foreign language (though it may seem foreign at times). Rather, legalese describes the specialized language of the legal profession -- i.e., words only lawyers would use.

Welcome to Legalese From A to Z, a new FindLaw series highlighting the meanings behind some legal terms that may not be familiar to non-lawyers. To kick off the series, we're starting -- where else? -- with five words that begin with the letter "A":

  • Acceleration clause. An acceleration clause is a clause in a loan agreement accelerating the date by which payment in full is due under certain circumstances. For example, an acceleration clause in a mortgage agreement can be triggered -- meaning payment of the remaining balance of the loan will be due -- if the home is sold, title to the property is changed, the loan is refinanced, or if the borrower defaults on the loan.

Supreme Court's October 2014 Term to Open With These 10 Cases

The U.S. Supreme Court is on summer break for the moment, but its next term begins in October with a handful of very interesting cases.

Beginning October 6, the nation's highest court will hear appeals involving issues of criminal law, prisoner's rights, labor law, class-action claims, and patent law.

Here's a preview of the Supreme Court's first 10 cases of the October 2014 Term:

Fla. Judge's Gay Marriage Ruling On Hold, for Now

A Florida judge has ruled the state's ban on gay marriage is unconstitutional, but it doesn't mean same-sex nuptials can occur in the Sunshine State just yet.

Monroe County Circuit Judge Luis M. Garcia on Thursday ruled in favor of Aaron R. Huntsman and William Lee Jones after they applied for and were denied a marriage license in April. Judge Garcia's ruling overturned the state's prohibition on gay marriage, but it may not take effect until Tuesday, reports the Orlando Sentinel.

Does this mean Florida will soon be the 20th state to allow gay marriage?

5 Things You Should Bring to a Divorce Consultation

What should you bring to your divorce consultation?

Before you hire a divorce attorney, you’ll likely have a consultation during which the attorney can size up your case and answer your questions. But you shouldn’t arrive to your divorce consultation empty-handed, otherwise your potential attorney may have little to say about your case.

Come prepared to your divorce consultation with at least these five things:

EEOC's New Pregnancy-Discrimination Guide: What Moms Need to Know

For the first time in more than 30 years, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has issued new federal guidelines about workplace pregnancy discrimination.

The EEOC's new guidelines follow an increase in complaints of pregnant workers being discriminated against over the last decade, reports The New York Times. The guidance also comes as the U.S. Supreme Court prepares to hear a workplace pregnancy-discrimination case during its upcoming term in October.

So what do current and future moms need to know about the new guidelines?

5 Inappropriate Sexual Behaviors Not to Tolerate From Supervisors

Supervisors and employees often work closely together and may even develop friendships, but this is no excuse to tolerate sexual harassment in or out of the workplace.

Because of their positions of authority, supervisors can often coerce their employees into not reporting or simply tolerating inappropriate conduct and behaviors. But employees do not have to remain silent.

Here are five inappropriate behaviors that employees should not have to tolerate from supervisors:

Why Are Speeding Tickets So Expensive?

If you've recently been stopped for speeding, you may be wondering: Why are speeding tickets so expensive?

Getting a speeding ticket has never been anyone's idea of a good time. But the dramatic rise in the fines associated with speeding violations has made getting a ticket even more of a pain, both in the neck and in the wallet. In some states like California, fines for speeding violations are now as much as eight times more expensive than they were in 1993, reports Los Angeles' KCAL-TV.

So what makes a speeding ticket so expensive?

Legal How-To: Filing an EEOC Workplace-Discrimination Complaint

Most discrimination suits based on federal employment law require that an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) complaint be filed first. For those who feel they have suffered discrimination in the workplace, filing a charge of discrimination with the EEOC is essential to successfully litigating a discrimination claim.

So where do you even begin? Here's a general overview on how to properly file an EEOC workplace discrimination complaint:

Is Public Nudity Legal? 3 Factors to Consider

Today (July 14) is National Nude Day, a yearly event which "celebrates naturism around the world and an opportunity to encourage first-timers to enjoy clothes-free relaxation."

Naturism is a movement that encourages going clothes-free, both in public and in private. And while what you wear in the privacy of your own home is typically no one's problem but your's, going clothes-free in public may present some legal issues.

So is public nudity legal? Here are three factors to consider:

5 Things a Bankruptcy Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't)

If you're considering filing for bankruptcy, you may have to face quite a few tough decisions.

One of the easy ones, however, should be deciding whether or not to hire a bankruptcy attorney. While it's certainly possible to handle your own bankruptcy, you may be biting off more than you can chew.

How so? Here are five things a bankruptcy attorney can do that you probably can't:

If Your Tree Falls Onto a Neighbor's Property, Are You Liable?

If your tree falls onto a neighbor’s property, it might not make a sound, but you may be liable.

Trees can fall for any number of different reasons: construction, heavy storms, and even just the natural end of a tree’s life.

But in each of these situations where your tree topples onto your neighbor’s property, when are you liable? Here’s a general overview:

Child Migrant Surge: 8 Things to Know About the 2008 Immigration Law

The surge of unaccompanied child migrants hitting our nation's southern border, and the debate over what to do about the situation, have roots in a 2008 immigration law designed to stop human trafficking.

The William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act of 2008 was enacted under the final days of the George W. Bush administration with bipartisan support, The New York Times reports. The law slows the deportation of children not from Mexico or Canada.

To explain how this law relates to the child migrant surge, here are eight things to know about this 2008 immigration law:

Hipster Beekeepers: Don't Get Stung by the Law

Planning on becoming the next urban beekeeper? Well, just like keeping hipster hens or other forms of urban animal husbandry, you may need to look at your city's local laws before you start making some of that sweet sweet honey.

So check our buzz about hipster beekeepers, and make sure you don't get stung by state and local laws:

Colo.'s Gay Marriage Ban Struck Down; Appeal Pending

Colorado's gay marriage ban was struck down by a state judge on Wednesday, but the ruling has been stayed to allow for an appeal.

Adams County District Court Judge C. Scott Crabtree ruled that the state's prohibition on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional, violating constitutional guarantees of due process and equal protection. The Denver Post reports that this ruling came weeks after a Boulder County clerk began issuing more than 100 marriage licenses, in defiance of state law, in late June.

What does this ruling mean for Colorado's same-sex couples?

Gitmo Detainees Cite Hobby Lobby in Ramadan Prayer Petition

Two Guantanamo Bay detainees are citing the recent Hobby Lobby case in an unusual way -- to press for their right to communal prayer during Ramadan.

Last week's decision by the U.S. Supreme Court expounded on closely held corporations like Hobby Lobby and their rights to religious freedoms as "persons." Mother Jones reports that two Gitmo detainees, Ahmed Rabbani and Emad Hassan, are hoping to use this expansion of religious rights to prevent military officials from prohibiting communal prayer during the holy month of Ramadan, which is currently underway.

If a company is a "person" with religious rights, what about detainees at Gitmo?

Getting Started on Kickstarter: 3 Legal Tips

Crowdfunding site Kickstarter has been in the news this week after an Ohio man decided to crowdfund his first stab at making potato salad -- and managed to raise nearly $60,000 from more than 4,000 people so far.

Zack "Danger" Brown had hoped his somewhat tongue-in-cheek Kickstarter project would reach his goal of $60, reports The Columbus Dispatch. His runaway success is further proof that whether you're looking to fund your own personal project or become part of someone else's, Kickstarter can be a great tool for making a lot of really cool stuff (or just a lot of potato salad) happen.

If you're curious about crowdfunding, here are three legal tips to get you started on Kickstarter:

Entering Into a Prenup? 3 Legal Tips Before You Sign

If you're getting married, you may be asked to enter into a prenuptial agreement. If so, you'll want to carefully consider the legal implications before you sign it.

As you probably know, a prenup can ensure that your interests are protected in the event your marriage doesn't last. But because it's a contract, you'll want to make sure you know exactly what you're agreeing to, and what may happen if the agreement is violated.

Here are three practical legal tips to consider before you sign off on your prenup:

Legal How-To: Repossessing a Car

Repossessing a car isn't a pleasant task, but knowing the correct legal steps can at least make it an efficient one.

When your car buyer defaults on his or her payments, you need to be smart about how you proceed to get your car back. If you fail to follow the rules or things get out of hand, you could potentially face civil liability or even criminal charges.

To repo your car the smart and law-abiding way, here's a quick legal how-to:

Can You Include Pets in Your Will?

Can you include pets in your will? Sure you can bequeath your animals to others as property, but what about setting aside part of your estate for your pets' continuing care?

For many people, a beloved pet can be just as much a part of the family as a spouse, child, or sibling. When it comes time to write a will, carving out a piece of their estate for their favorite animal companion may seem like the best way to ensure their pet is taken care of after they pass away.

However, it's generally best to avoid leaving gifts to pets in your will. Why?

5 Things a Divorce Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't)

Divorces can be grueling and emotional legal battles, and your divorce attorney is far better equipped to handle the fight than you on your lonesome.

Don’t believe us? While we understand that you may be cutting ties because you’re tired of being controlled and dependent on someone else, here are five things an experienced divorce lawyer can do that you probably can’t:

For Int'l Kissing Day: Our Top 5 Legal Kissin' Tales

International Kissing Day is an unofficial holiday that began in Britain as National Kissing Day, but has since become celebrated worldwide as International Kissing Day.

And whatever you call it, it can't be denied that more or less everyone enjoys a good kiss every once in awhile. But what about a bad kiss? Well, those can often be less than enjoyable, and sometimes even illegal.

For International Kissing Day, here are our five favorite stories of smooches gone wrong -- and the legal consequences that followed:

Do You Need a Trust for Your Website, Social Media Accounts?

When you die, your social media accounts and websites may be left in the hands of immediate family members or even deactivated. If you want to control your digital life after your actual death, you may need to consider a trust for your online presence.

Placing these accounts in the care of a trust during your life can ensure that they are maintained post-mortem and that private information may not accessed by those you don't trust.

Here are just a few reasons to consider a trust for your websites and social media accounts:

Immigration Law: What Is Temporary Protected Status (TPS)?

Temporary protected status (TPS) is a designation given to certain countries undergoing temporary moments of crisis which would prevent that country's nationals from returning safely. For immigration purposes, nationals of countries who are granted TPS may apply for authorization to work and travel within the United States -- even those who are undocumented.

What countries have been designated for TPS, and what does that entitle their nationals to do?

Fourth of July Legal History: How Did It Become a Holiday?

Independence Day, also known colloquially as the Fourth of July, celebrates America's formal declaration of independence from colonial rule. The Second Continental Congress officially adopted the final version of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776.

But beyond the official creation and adoption of one of our nation's founding documents, how did the Fourth of July come to be a federally recognized holiday?

Legal How-To: Scattering Ashes After Cremation

The practice of cremating and scattering the ashes of a loved one who has passed away is becoming increasingly popular in America. In fact, by 2016, the Cremation Association of North America projects that nearly half of all deceased Americans will be cremated.

But what should you be aware of when scattering a loved one's ashes? Are there any potential legal pitfalls that those planning their own final resting place or hoping to scatter a loved one's ashes should watch out for?

Here are some legal considerations to keep in mind if you want to scatter ashes:

Ky.'s Gay-Marriage Ban Struck Down; Judge Stays Own Ruling

A federal judge in Kentucky has upheld the rights of gay couples to marry in the Bluegrass State, following a February ruling which would force the state to recognize out-of-state gay marriages.

In his decision in Love v. Beshear, U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II struck down Kentucky's ban on same-sex marriage, noting that "even sincere and long-held religious beliefs do not trump the constitutional rights of those who happen to be out-voted."

What practical effect will this latest gay marriage ruling have in Kentucky?

Can Your Boss Make You Work on a Holiday?

If you were stuck at work last month while your friends were all celebrating Memorial Day, you may be asking yourself: Can my boss really make me work on a holiday?

After all, government services like post offices and banks are all closed on federal holidays, so shouldn't you get the day off too?

Well before you make your big plans for the Fourth of July, you should probably keep reading.