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

November 2015 Archives

No Child Left Behind Finally Will Get Revised

The federal government is reconsidering the controversial education bill No Child Left Behind this week. What it will mean for your child is unclear at this point.

But there is consensus across the country and across party lines that there is reason to be critical and that it's time to revise the program. And it is likely that states will have more say in children's education again after more than a decade of deep federal involvement.

Getting on the scale after the Thanksgiving holiday is never fun. But with Christmas coming up and Resolution Season just around the corner, perhaps you've already got a plan for getting back in shape.

As opposed to the post-holiday weigh-in, a fitness plan that includes a fancy new health tracker or health tracking app can be fun - you can see, and share, your workouts and progress. As with any sharable or social tech, however, you may want to be careful about how much information you put out there. Because the same privacy laws that apply to your personal medical records may not apply to health tracking apps.

4 Tips for Making a Holiday Visitation Schedule

The holiday season is supposed to be fun but scheduling can get overwhelming. That is true for anyone but especially for parents who are separated or divorced and have twice as much celebrating to manage.

Your holiday visitation arrangements were likely determined in the divorce but each year certain details need to be worked out again. What can you do to keep cool?

4 Reasons to Delay Divorce Until After the Holidays

You really don't want to sit through another dinner with your in-laws and you just can't stand your spouse another minute! Divorce seems like a solution and it may well be.

But stop. Take a breath. There are some good reasons to grin and bear it for the holiday season. So, for practical, financial, and emotional purposes, consider waiting until January, as so many do, before you file for divorce.

New Year's Resolutions

Alton Abramowitz, president of the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers told Reuters that there is no solid data on how many divorces are filed in January, but it is a popular time to act. "People don't want to upset the apple cart over the holidays ... And then, because they don't want to spend another damned year with that spouse of theirs, as soon as the holidays are over they pull the plug and file," explained Abramowitz. He outlines some reasons to hang around.

Can I Fight a Child Support Increase?

You can challenge a request for additional child support in court. When it comes to child support payments, the parents can either agree to a modification or they can put the request before a judge.

When asked, courts do review previous child support arrangements and the law does account for changes of circumstances, allowing downward or upward modifications of support. Whether you are being asked to pay more, or you are seeking a decrease in child support due to a change in your life, a judge will reconsider a previous arrangement. But be prepared to back up any claims you make with proof.

How Much Will an Adoption Lawyer Cost?

How much an adoption lawyer will cost you depends on many factors, which are not all calculable in the abstract. Laws vary from state to state and there are different types of adoption, as well as distinctions in the process between adopting a child in the US and one who is abroad.

Wherever you and the child are, adoption is a process. And usually not a fast one. In fact, it can be exceedingly slow and difficult for prospective parents. A lawyer can tell you what to expect before the process begins but no one can predict everything.

In a case of a headline being ripped straight from an episode of The Good Wife, a company that manages for-profit colleges has agreed to forgive over $102.8 million in student loan debt. Education Management Corporation (EDMC) reached a settlement with 39 state attorneys general to rescind debt owed by more than 80,000 former students nationwide.

EDMC was accused of using "high-pressure" recruitment tactics, giving inaccurate information about some of their programs' accreditation, and misrepresenting its colleges' educational benefits, job placement rates, and graduation rates. The company will pay $95 million to the federal government, who backed the loans.

Can I Get My Deposit Back on a New or Used Car?

You might be able to get a deposit back on a new or used car. But whether you actually will get it back depends on where you are purchasing, what deal you made, and your tenacity.

Consumer protection laws vary from state to state, but one myth prevails nationwide, according to Consumer Reports. Many people believe that they have three days to reflect on their car purchase before losing the deposit. That is a myth, the consumer protection organization says. Although there is a three-day rule to reflect on some consumer goods, it does not apply to deposits on new or used cars.

Can You Get Fired for Self-Defense at Work?

You can get fired for defending yourself at work if company policy demands otherwise. But in Utah, you can at least challenge that termination, thanks to the efforts of Walmart workers who were fired for failing to follow company policy on de-escalation during a robbery.

Their case has taken the long road through the courts, winning recognition of the general claim but not the specifics of their case. And it is still not certain that the Walmart workers' story will ever be put before a jury, according to the National Law Review.

Trending Questions From FindLaw Answers

You've got questions ... we've got answers. If you have not yet asked or answered a question in FindLaw's Answers community, what are you waiting for? This amazing free resource supports a dynamic community of legal consumers and attorneys helping each other out. Simple as that.

We see a lot of great questions in our Answers community every day. Here's a look at some of the most commented on questions lately from our FindLaw Answers boards.

November is National Adoption Month. Parents of adopted children and prospective parents may be wondering what legal rights a non-biological parent has. These rights will often depend on relevant adoption laws, rights reserved by the biological parents, and whether previous parental rights have been terminated.

If you're thinking of adopting a child this month, or you've adopted or fostered a child in the past, here is an overview on the non-biological parental rights:

Utah Judge Allows Lesbian Couple's Adoption to Proceed

A Utah judge rescinded his order removing a foster child from the home of a lesbian couple. The order originally mandated that the child be placed with a heterosexual couple within one week, but now the kid can stay home as the prospective parents move forward with adoption, as planned, reports CNN.

Juvenile Court Judge Scott Johansen rescinded the order after rights groups national outcry about his decision. He cited the legal standard "best interests of the child" but based his initial decisions on his "belief that research has shown that children are more emotionally and mentally stable when raised by a mother and father in the same home."

Can States Refuse Refugees?

Syrians have been fleeing their war-torn country in droves over the past few years, sparking a humanitarian crisis in Europe as refugees try to find safe haven in Europe and America. On Friday night, a terrorist group operating in Iraq and Syria conducted a series of attacks in Paris, killing hundreds of civilians.

In response, conservative governors have been lining up to announce they won't allow Syrian refugees into their states. But do they actually have that power? Can states refuse to allow refugees to cross their borders?

Pet Provisions: Tips About Inheriting an Animal

Everyone loved your uncle Joe, but his Doberman ... well, not as much. If your uncle left you his pet as part of your inheritance, are you stuck with this dog?

Not necessarily. There are alternatives that may be better for both you and the animal. But before giving up the dog, consider that caring for animals can have great health benefits. Also, it's a way to keep Joe's memory or spirit living with you, quite literally.

Are Attorneys Notaries?

Attorneys are not necessarily notary publics. But they can be. In the same spirit, you can be a notary without becoming a lawyer.

A notary public is someone who certifies and attests to the authenticity of writings and takes depositions and affidavits, among other duties. The National Notary Association states that there are 4.4 million notaries in the United States. They are all in service to the state or territory that issues their commission.

Sunday is America Recycles Day and many of you will be out this weekend at recycling drives, demonstrations, and events. There are almost 10,000 curbside recycling programs across the country and Americans recycle about a third of all waste, which is great.

But, like anything, there are rules and regulations regarding recycling, covering everything from plastic bags and restaurant grease to economic incentives for small businesses going green. Here are a few of our favorite recycling laws:

As regular readers of our The Good Wife recaps will know, the show has had a lot of fun with elder partner Howard Lyman's claims of age discrimination. But refusing to hire someone or harassing an employee because of his or her age is serious. Not only is it demeaning to the person, but it could be grounds for an age discrimination lawsuit.

But what proof do you need to file an age discrimination claim, and how do you demonstrate age discrimination to a court? Here are a few factors:

Filing for Divorce in Separate States: a Quick Guide

You are getting out of your marriage and out of this place. But wait. How do you file for divorce if you move?

Splitting from separate states brings a few added considerations to the question of where to file for divorce. Let's look at them here.

How Much Will a Lawyer Cost?

It's the first question that comes to mind when anyone gets into legal trouble: How much will this cost? And while hiring an attorney may be expensive, not hiring one could end up costing you even more.

The total cost of hiring an attorney will depend on the attorney and your case, but there are some general principles regarding legal fees, depending on whether you're hiring a family, injury, or criminal lawyer.

Can I Use My 401(k) for a House Down Payment?

You can use retirement savings in a 401(k) plan for a down payment on a home. But you will pay a 10 percent penalty on the withdrawal, and taxes, according to Money Crashers.

There are options, however. So let's look at how you might avail yourself of the money you saved for retirement and make the most of it now.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Win the Lottery?

You can afford it. Hire a lawyer now that you have that lottery money. In fact, be smart and do it before you collect. For people who owe money in certain states, that is practically a requirement.

Winning the lottery is amazing, obviously. Money will solve a lot of problems, like debt. But having such cash means you need expert money management. It's not that more money necessarily means more problems; however, having a counselor -- or two -- is critical to safeguarding and making the most of your lottery loot.

IHOP Sinkhole Swallows Cars. Who's Liable?

The tables were turned at a new International House of Pancakes in Mississippi this weekend when a sinkhole in the restaurant parking lot swallowed 14 or more cars. The restaurant just opened, NBC News reported.

The earth opening up and swallowing stuff sounds like a nightmare. But obviously sinkholes do happen in waking life. And when they do, victims may have recourse with a lawsuit. In the case of the new IHOP in Meridian, Mississippi it seems very likely indeed that legal action is in the offing.

We normally think of bullying as an activity confined to the playground. But it turns out it can happen in the classroom, too. And the aggressors aren't always fellow students -- teachers have also been known to be bullies.

The vast majority of teachers are caring, conscientious, and hard-working. But every bunch has a few bad apples, and some teachers can take educational encouragement too far. So what can you do if you find out a teacher is bullying your child?

Can I Marry Without My Parents' Consent?

You may be able to marry without your parents' permission but that depends on: 1) how old you are, and 2) where you live. State marriage laws vary.

Sixteen is commonly an age that marriage is allowed without parental consent. But you really will have to look up the laws in your state to answer the question yourself. In addition to age, there are other factors that may influence your ability to marry very young and without parental permission in some states, such as pregnancy.

Do Joint Tenants Have to Be Married?

Joint tenancy is a property law term that describes a type of home ownership. Joint tenants do not have to be married, and joint tenancies are not necessarily limited to two people.

There are perceived advantages to joint tenancies as forms of ownership. But beware, there are also certain risks.

Child Custody Tips: How to Share the Kids During Holidays

Thanksgiving is for gratitude and good food. But it can be hard to get in the holiday mood when celebration creates stress, as it often does in split families.

Sharing the kids can be difficult for divorced and separated parents. And feeling split between parents is tough on kids too. Children observe their parents and pick up on all kinds of behaviors. Send positive messages that will help them manage the stresses of adulthood by handling custody on the holidays cheerfully ... and like a grown-up.

    Tips for Hiring a Caregiver

    We want to take care of our parents and elderly friends and family, and with so many stories of elder abuse out there, trying to choose the right caregiver can be troubling. Any wrong decision could have disastrous consequences, so how do you get it right?

    To be sure, there are compassionate, considerate, and caring professionals out there that can help elderly loved ones live their best life for their remaining years. So how do you find them? Here are a few tips when hiring a caregiver:

    Custody Crime: Teen Finds Himself on FBI Missing Children List

    A boy missing from Alabama for 13 years turned up in Cleveland this week. Julian Hernandez, 18, discovered himself on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children database when applying to colleges, USA Today reported.

    This information soon led him to his mother. He had not seen her since his father disappeared with him 13 years ago.

    Consumer Alert: Learn to Spot Card Skimmers

    A national convenience store chain announced last month that during a routine inspection of gas pumps, it discovered some credit card skimming devices. Casey's General Stores, Inc. -- which has 1900 stores across 14 states -- said that it found six card skimmers in Nebraska locations and one in Iowa, The Des Moines Register reported.

    The company has informed credit card companies but does not know if any information was compromised. "We are committed to maintaining a safe and secure environment for our customers and will continue to work with federal, state and local authorities in this investigation," said Casey's Chairman and CEO Robert J. Myers in a statement.

    Do Landlords Have to Fix Broken Windows?

    You have a right to a livable, or habitable, rental. That means your landlord must ensure that conditions are safe. A broken window is not safe for anyone, and could lead to more serious damage and crime.

    Generally speaking, landlords are responsible for fixing a broken window belonging to a rental property. But of course there are exceptions. If you broke a window and the landlord can prove it, then the landlord may make the repair but you will have to pay. Probably, the money will be deducted from your security deposit.

    Wills can be intimidating. Aside from the contemplation of death, trying to craft a legal document that accomplishes everything you want can be a daunting task. Interpreting wills without the help of the person who drafted it is a notoriously tricky practice, so getting it right is essential.

    With so many ways to get it wrong, how do you make sure you have a valid will that properly takes care of your estate? Be sure to avoid these common mistakes when you draft your will:

    Can You Record Your Court Proceedings?

    Recently in Illinois, a man was ordered to remove Facebook posts encouraging people to record court proceedings. James Weddigan's social media activity earned him charges for contempt of court, which he successfully appealed, The Washington Post reported.

    Weddigan won on procedural grounds, meaning that the Illinois high court never addressed free speech on social media or one's right to record court proceedings. Instead, it found that the lower court confused criminal and civil contempt. But the question remains. Can you record any court proceeding?

    Laws for Reporters: Can I Record Police and Other People?

    Freedom of the press is guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Still, it doesn't mean journalists can just do anything in pursuit of a scoop. There are rules and even the most dedicated reporter must adhere to them, however devoted to the truth.

    Questions about what journalists are allowed to do were recently considered in a reporter's legal primer published by the Columbia Journalism Review. It looked at recording police in public and regular people on the phone, asking how far a reporter can go to get us what we want to know.

    3 Election Day Laws to Know

    The first Tuesday in November is Election Day, and while most of the country is looking forward to next year's presidential election, many Americans are headed to the polls for everything from state laws, to local ballot initiatives.

    Voting laws in the United States have a long, storied, and sometime sordid history, from the "Vote early and vote often" days of the early 1900s, to Bush v. Gore in 2000. Here are three voting and election laws you may need to know on your way to the polls.

    Few Babysitting Laws Means You Make the Rules

    You can hire a teenager and even a child to take care of your child. Surprisingly, most states have nothing to say about it. Babysitting is outside the realm of much regulation.

    The national Department of Labor does not require that child babysitters be paid minimum wage and very few states have babysitting laws. There is also no minimum age requirement in most states, meaning theoretically any kid could watch your kid. So how do you decide when the neighbor's kid really is ready to watch your child?