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December 2015 Archives

Why Is January Divorce Season?

A new year is an opportunity to turn over a new leaf. There is something satisfying about the notion of a clean slate, even if January 1 is just a date. This is the time when we resolve to move on, and leave bad habits behind, which for some includes marriage.

Yes, as we toast to new possibilities on the first of January, many will be contemplating more than the end of a year. January is divorce season. Let's look at five reasons why divorce attorneys consider this the winter boom in business.

5 Tips to Lower Divorce Costs

Winter is the season of divorce, and January is especially popular for marital splits. Maybe you too are resolved to start the new year by becoming single again. If so, be prepared for a lot of additional expenses and take note of these five tips on how to limit them.

Fighting an ex over custody of your children can be an uphill battle, and dragging it out into social media can turn molehills into mountains. From criminal trials to divorce proceedings, our social media presence can be dragged into court, and that's the last thing you want jeopardizing your custody case.

So here are 5 ways to stay out of trouble on social media when determining child custody issues:

Does Domestic Violence Affect Child Custody?

Families are very complicated, especially today. Parents may find themselves raising a partner's children but separated from their own kids based on child custody arrangements. And some parents may learn that their children are being raised in an unsafe setting.

If you discover that your kids are living in a violent or otherwise dangerous home, and you want to change the custody arrangements, you can petition the courts. But be warned that claiming domestic violence is taking place is a very serious charge and impacts many lives. Only do it if it's in the best interests of the child.

Can I Sue for My Inheritance?

Dealing with the death of a loved one is difficult enough without adding on a legal dispute about your inheritance. But you may need to fight for your inheritance if you believe a loved one's will is outdated or has been improperly altered.

While most estates will pass through probate without an issue, here are some legal considerations when challenging a will and your rights to an inheritance.

Can Parents Take Their Kids' Money?

Christmas was costly and now there is no money for the mortgage. Can you dip into your kids' financial gifts to pay?

Yes you can, and apparently you will be one of many parents who indulge in the practice. About one-third to one-half of parents surveyed in polls in 2014 took money from their children's piggy banks and savings accounts to pay for routine monthly expenses and even extras like vacation, according to Time magazine.

Few things are as infuriating as a delayed flight, and cancelled flights can be downright enraging, especially around the holidays. If your flight has been cancelled, you may be looking to take out that rage on the airline, in court.

Unfortunately, airlines don't guarantee their schedules and the fine print on your ticket (or email confirmation) usually means you can't sue for a cancelled flight. But that doesn't mean you can't or won't be compensated, and you may have some legal rights if your flight was cancelled.

What to Do If Falsely Accused of Elder Abuse

No good deed goes unpunished and that can certainly apply to efforts to help your elders. Sometimes when we try to assist others, things go awry, or our efforts are misunderstood. Good people are accused of abuse.

It happens with people who look out for kids, the elderly, and other vulnerable populations -- society wants to protect them and that means innocent people can get hurt. So if you find yourself reported for elder abuse, what should you do? It's a difficult question because there are different types of abuse and, as such, different contexts in which you might be accused.

Couples Sue Over Gay Marriage Law in North Carolina

A North Carolina law that allows officials to refuse to perform marriage ceremonies as a religious accommodation is being challenged by 3 couples. Although the law arose from local opposition to same-sex marriage, the challenge is brought by a mixed group of plaintiffs.

They filed a lawsuit yesterday arguing that the state is violating the First Amendment of the US Constitution and using taxpayer money to advance a religious point of view, according to the Associated Press.

3 Tips for Legal Gift Returns

There's only one perfect gift-giver in this world, and it's Santa. The rest of us give and receive mistakes every now and then. And this is OK, since we can always return a gift. Right?

While most stores allow returns, there's no legal right to a gift return or exchange unless the product is mislabeled or broken. So here's how to return or exchange a gift legally:

US and Cuba OK Commercial Flights

President Obama and Cuban leader Raul Castro continue to work on improving US-Cuban relations, last week announcing flights between the two countries will resume. But most Americans are still officially prohibited from traveling to Cuba, according to the State Department, and there are no plans in place to actually resume commercial flights anytime soon. They have just been approved.

Despite the prohibition on American tourist travel to Cuba, some Americans and countless other tourists from around the world have long visited the island nation even without direct flights. And tourism in Cuba today is booming, according to reports from National Public Radio.

After a momentous 2015 that saw the Supreme Court save Obamacare (again), give same-sex couples the right to marry, and preserve the death penalty (for now), the Court's October term moves into 2016. While the January session doesn't appear as juicy as previous dockets, there are some cases that will no doubt have a lasting impact.

Here are three cases to watch in January 2016 as the Supreme Court closes out the October 2015 term:

Texas Law Puts Cameras in Special Needs Classrooms

A new Texas law will require cameras in classrooms with special education students and teachers after an investigation revealed questionable practices in some schools, according to a report from National Public Radio.

Last year, a video of an 8-year-old autistic child held captive on the floor in a "calm room" resembling a closet -- over his protests -- was publicized. It prompted parents of special education students to demand cameras in classrooms across the state. The Texas law is the first of its kind in the country but it may be the beginning of a new trend in teaching, given the rise of cameras in policing.

Who Pays for Stolen Packages?

A stolen package at Christmas time is a terrible thing. Whether it was a gift for your child, or something valuable sent from someone you care about -- you are going to be mad. And you are going to want some compensation. Can you look to the delivery company for a little payback?

Whether a delivery company will reimburse you for a stolen or lost package depends on a number of different factors, most importantly your contract. Yes, when you send a package you enter into a contract. The terms of that deal govern the extent to which you can seek reimbursement for a delivery that never arrives.

Legal Malpractice or Just Bad Lawyering?

A lawyer is an administrator, counselor, clerk, earpiece and voice, sword and shield. It's a lot to ask and not everyone does every aspect of the job just right.

Sadly, there are bad lawyers. But that does not mean that they are committing legal malpractice or that you can sue an attorney when a case doesn't go as hoped. Lawyers do not guarantee results. They are, however, bound by the law, ethical rules, and standards of practice. And when they violate the codes of conduct that govern the legal profession, then a malpractice suit is in order.

'Tis the season for giving, and some of you may be wondering if your gifts can be a little ... greener this year. And while we would love to give you a clear-cut answer on giving the gift of marijuana, the fact remains that pot laws and your ability to give someone pot as a gift will depend on where you, and that person, live.

So before you put a bow on that bud, here are some drug laws to keep in mind:

Going through a divorce is hard. And it's even harder to go through it alone without any legal help.

There are many reasons why you'll want to hire an experienced family law attorney to help you with your divorce. One of them is an attorney's ability to accurately answer any and all questions you'll have about the divorce process generally, and your divorce specifically. Here are the top 10 divorce questions to ask a family lawyer:

Shoppers, Beware Christmas Counterfeits

Christmas shoppers in a hurry to check everyone off of their gift lists may wish to take a moment to pause. Almost a quarter of online shoppers unknowingly purchased a counterfeit brand online, according to a study published by Trademarks and Brands Online.

The vast majority of those consumers said they would not have bought the counterfeit product if they were aware it was a fake. But the chances of making a mistake go up during Christmas when people tend to buy a lot on a short deadline. As online shopping increases generally -- and specifically ahead of the holiday season -- so does the likelihood of buying a fake.

5 Reasons Travel Insurance Policies Are Invalidated

You are planning a holiday trip and looking forward to it. Everything is ready from your bags to your mini toiletries and travel insurance. So now you can just relax, right?

Well, not quite. You can relax, but maybe not with a drink, and certainly not with any illegal drugs, and probably not if your plans include any extreme sports. Here is a list, adapted from the Consumer Insurance Guide, with the top five reasons that insurers give for invalidating travel insurance.

Retraining, protective, or stay away orders can arise in a multitude of situations, from business arguments to domestic disputes. And fighting a restraining order can take many forms, depending on the type of order involved and the particular circumstances of your case.

Most restraining orders are orders from a court, and therefore can be appealed. It may not be easy to get a restraining order amended or overturned, but it's not impossible. Here's what you need to know if you're appealing a restraining order.

Giving Money to Your Children: Kiddie Tax Basics

Times are tough and even your kids could use an extra buck. So maybe this year, rather than buying the children holiday gifts, you’re thinking of giving them cash. If so, and you have a lot to spare, beware the kiddie tax.

This is a tax on a child’s unearned income. It exists so that parents will not shift funds to children just so that the money will be taxed a lower rate. As such, it requires that gifts over $2,000 be reported on either the child or parent’s taxes, and it can apply to children over 18. Let’s look at the details.

What to Do When Accused of Theft at Work

If you are accused of theft at work, try to stay calm and to sort out what is happening. What steps to take will depend on what is going on in your specific situation.

Have you been fired? Have you been charged with a crime? Did you do the things you are accused of? Have you been asked to take a lie detector test or submit to some questioning? The context of the accusation makes a big difference. Also, keep in mind, that criminal charges might be in the offing, so though you may want to shout from the rooftops that you are innocent, saying little may be smartest.

There may have been a moment, a brief blip of Internet time, when trolling was harmless and funny. But as instances online harassment and cyberbullying have escalated, we've become aware of how serious the real life consequences of Internet trolling can be.

As schools are now teaching online safety and states are passing cyberbullying laws, insurance companies are also pitching in and providing "troll insurance" to cover victims of online harassment. So what does troll insurance cover and can you add it to your insurance coverage?

Gender Neutral Pronouns in the Workplace: A Legal Overview

Hello humans. We are at the start of a new millennium, a complex and tense time in which speech matters a great deal. How do you communicate correctly with so many types of people and tools for exchange and evolving notions of what's okay?

The answer is, you should communicate consciously, acknowledging that we all make mistakes. The sages all say that the wise only know how little they know, so -- accepting that -- let's consider communication in the postmodern workplace from a human and legal perspective.

Teachers don't just impart knowledge to students. They keep children and teenagers safe. And sometimes that means recognizing and reporting signs of abuse.

Not only can teachers be the first to spot signs of child abuse, they are often legally required to report abuse to law enforcement.

Not only are there consumer scams floating around on auction and ad websites like Craigslist, but criminals as well. And as 'Craigslist Crimes' keep piling up, local police forces are looking for ways to keep people safe.

One way is by using secure Internet purchase exchange locations. The brainchild of Bellingham, Massachusetts police, these safe spots can provide buyers and sellers with some security when it comes to actually exchanging goods and money. So how do they work?

Can My Work Schedule Change With No Notice?

Abrupt scheduling changes at work may be irritating but they are legal. There is little you can do about it if your boss suddenly switches your shifts or asks you to adopt new hours.

American employment is governed by the Fair Labor Standards Act. That act has no scheduling provisions, except in connection with child labor. The FLSA does not provide a minimum notice period for changes and your employer can change your schedule without talking to you about it.

Dangerous Dog Ban Lifted for Hero Pit Bull

Hazel Park, Michigan has lifted its ban on pit bulls based on the heroic efforts of a dog who saved her owner during a domestic abuse altercation. The ban was lifted after a two-year battle between dog owners and town authorities, according to Petcha.

In 2013, Jamie Kraczowski was being beaten up by her boyfriend when her dog jumped in to save her. Despite the dog's bravery, the owner was told that she must leave Hazel City as pit bulls are a banned breed.

Can Police Deny the Press Access to a Crime Scene?

The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees a free press. But freedom of the press refers to journalistic expression and does not mean that members of the press are actually free to do whatever they please. Police can certainly deny reporters access to a crime scene and those who ignore warnings can be charged with trespass or other crimes.

A reporter can be arrested. Unless you are able to risk arrest, the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press suggests that you follow the same rules that apply to everyone else. Here are some general tips adapted from the Committee's list that are useful to reporters and others, whether at a crime scene or event.

Can Daycare Kick Out My Child?

Childcare providers can kick kids out, especially in private care settings. The precise terms of your contract will dictate what, if any, legal remedies you may have if that happens.

But before you contemplate lawsuits, let's look at why children are dismissed from daycare typically and some things you can do to avoid this happening to you.

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:

Genetic manipulation has been a dream to some and a nightmare to others. But the days of inserting, cutting, and swapping out DNA always seemed a bit farther off. Until now. CRISPR-Cas9 is a technology that allows users to quickly and cheaply edit, delete or replace any gene, and is already being used in hundreds of labs.

This has many people wondering if designer babies are right around the corner, and whether manipulating human genes is legal.

A separation or divorce can get emotionally and legally complex -- especially when shared children are involved. Determining visitation rights can be even more challenging when a child is a newborn.

Normally, child custody and visitation matters are determined without favor to either parent and with the child's best interests in mind. But making these determinations before or right after birth can be more difficult.

Can My Lawyer Testify Against Me?

Your attorney can testify against you in extremely limited circumstances. If it happens, it either means you are now adversaries, on opposite sides of a case, or that the lawyer has been subpoenaed and is obligated to testify.

Regardless, a lawyer has an ethical obligation to maintain client confidences to the extent possible, which means that testimony does not equate with spilling secrets. This is true even in the criminal context when a client files a motion to reopen a case and reverse a conviction based on ineffective assistance of counsel.

Now that the papers have been filed and the divorce is finalized, you're all done with your ex, right? Well, maybe not. Depending on the type of legal separation and what was filed in the divorce agreement, there may still be a few issues to work out.

Even though you're not legally married, you still might have to determine who gets what remains of shared property, who gets paid what in alimony, and who gets custody of your kids. Here are a few things to consider after your divorce is final:

Spousal Support: Alimony Pendente Lite FAQ

Alimony Pendente Lite, or APL, is temporary spousal support that includes an allowance to pay for prosecution of the divorce itself. Family law is mostly regulated by the states, so the specifics do vary and you will have to inform yourself of local law. Here are some Alimony Pendente Lite basics to help you understand what you read.

How to Find a Safe Haven for Your Baby

Safe haven laws -- sometimes colorfully called Baby Moses laws -- allow a person to get rid of a newborn child anonymously. They exist throughout the country and differ in the details but all exist to help children whose parents cannot keep them. There is a safe haven law in all fifty states.

The National Safe Haven Alliance, headquartered in Virginia, has a map on its website that shows the baby safe haven laws in each state. If you find yourself in the impossibly difficult situation of having to make a decision to abandon your child, make sure that what you are doing is within state law.

It's not just Black Friday and Cyber Monday -- some of us will be doing our holiday shopping right up until Christmas Eve. And whether you're grabbing gifts online or IRL, you need to keep your ID secure.

Here are a few tips on avoiding identity theft during the holiday shopping season:

No one wants to think about crime on vacation, but you may have no choice. We tend to think of hotels as our home away from home and we trust hotels to be as secure as our homes. And if something is stolen from our hotel room or on hotel property, we naturally want to hold the hotel responsible.

But is that legal? And are there limits to hotel liability when it comes to stolen property?

Florida Courts Stay Passive Policing Tickets

Florida courts are considering the legality of traffic violations caught on camera and reviewed by contract companies. Hundreds of thousands of tickets are on hold in Miami-Dade and Tampa counties.

The tickets have been repeatedly challenged by defense attorneys arguing that the state improperly delegates police powers, according to the Daily Business Review. In October a judge stayed tickets in Miami-Dade, asking an appellate court to decide whether allowing a private company to review violations caught by a camera counts as legal policing. Tampa, too, has asked its District Court of Appeals to opine on the matter.