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

October 2016 Archives

It's no secret that Donald Trump thinks the upcoming presidential is "absolutely being rigged." When given the opportunity to clarify his stance, Trump said, "I would accept a clear election result, but I would also reserve my right to contest or file a legal challenge in the case of a questionable result."

If the results are "questionable," what would such a legal challenge look like? And what grounds would you need to challenge an election's results?

How to Find a Divorce Lawyer

When a married couple, or just one married person, wants to divorce, the first concern is finding the right divorce lawyer. While a person’s first instinct might be to hire their one lawyer friend, or the same lawyer that handled their injury case, or the cheapest lawyer they can find, unless those lawyers know divorce law, it’s a big risk. With the help of online lawyer directories, the simplest way to find a lawyer is by calling as many as you have time to call, and talking with as many potential lawyers as you can.

Divorces can range in complexity from simple to impossible. When a married couple has no assets, no children, and both parties have their own equal incomes, the divorce may be as simple as just filing some documents that a court needs to approve. However, if there are children, a marital home, a shared car, a family business, and/or other assets, it is much more complicated.

So how do you evaluate a potential divorce lawyer?

For most parents on Halloween, it's not the costumes that scare them. Among the biggest fear that parents have on Halloween is that their child will be abducted or worse. The fear of kidnapping on Halloween seems rational as children are dressed in costume, are out in large numbers (often unsupervised), are out at night, and the whole holiday provides cover for would-be criminals.

To help mitigate the concerns of parents, many states and localities have laws regulating the actions of sex offenders during Halloween. In California, for example, sex offenders on parole are required to be at home from 5 p.m. to 5 a.m., with any exterior lights turned off, and are not allowed to open their door for anyone except law enforcement. Although laws prohibiting sex offenders from participating in Halloween are not in every state, parents can take other actions to protect their kids.

A lot of accusations get tossed around come election time, and this year has been no exception. Some are old -- accusations of voter fraud have been thrown around for at least a decade and have spawned strict state voter ID statutes. Some are new -- few candidates, if any, have claimed outright that an election is rigged and refused to say they will accept the results of an election if they lose.

Both claims sound serious, striking at the heart of our democracy. But the negative effects of one of these charges have been disproven, while the consequences of the other may be right around the corner.

Can You Refuse a CPS Drug Test?

When Child Protective Services knocks on your door, many parents are so confused that they may make some poor decisions or give some suspicious answers without even realizing it. CPS investigators are trained in working with confused, worried parents. If they observe certain behaviors or things around the house, they may ask a parent to take a drug test.

When CPS asks you to take a drug test, many parents assume they must comply. This is simply not the case. Just like any law enforcement officer, unless you consent, a CPS investigator would need a warrant to force you to submit to a drug test. In order to get that warrant, they need probable cause. Although you do not need to comply/consent, oftentimes doing so is the path of least resistance, or it may be a condition to get custody back. While you can refuse, doing so may have other consequences.

If a court has ordered alimony payments as part of your divorce, whether you're receiving or paying, you might be wondering how long that alimony will last. While court orders or alimony agreements usually provide a timeframe, conditions, or procedure for modification or termination, typically courts will allow modification for changed circumstances. Retirement will usually qualify as a changed circumstance worthy of a modification of the order if certain conditions are met.

Ending alimony payments, on the other hand, will generally only occur if financial or other circumstances have changed drastically, such as upon death (but even after death, in some cases, alimony can continue). Because alimony is generally viewed as a temporary support mechanism to allow a disadvantaged spouse to become self sufficient, ending alimony usually requires the supported spouse to no longer be in need. This can occur when they die, are no longer in need, become employed, remarried, or win the lottery.

Some of us are counting down the days to retirement. Others are counting our pennies and wondering if we'll ever get to retire. And whether retirement sounds like a dream to you or a nightmare, you still have to prepare for it.

Here are some legal considerations as you near retirement, from our archives:

Getting a divorce is stressful. Regardless of what state you’re in, the process involves a careful analysis of your finances, assets, holdings, debts and other obligations, as well as potentially an analysis of your fitness to be a parent. Frequently, divorce can have a severe financial and/or emotional impact on one or both parties. In the context of this, sometimes getting a second opinion could be the smartest decision you make.

The decision to get a second legal opinion in your divorce case can either resolve your concerns or confirm your fears. If your concerns are resolved and you are able to get some peace of mind, you can consider the money well spent. On the other hand, if you confirm your fears, you should consider the money even more well spent, as you can now work on either changing attorneys or having your current attorney change strategies.

Ah, the selfie. That staple of social media. Who needs a silly little "I Voted" sticker when you can share your voting status worldwide with a few taps on your smartphone? The ballot selfie has become the most popular way to prove you participated in the political process, but some states aren't too keen on the idea.

Quite a few states have banned ballot selfies, and a few state courts have overturned bans. So where does the law stand now? Here's a look.

Most of us have never violated Facebook's Community Standards. Then again, most of us are only posting photos of our children, vacation, or food. But as more businesses, charities, and media companies join the ranks of individual Facebook users, the limits of the site's policy on explicit posts are bound to be stretched. (And the most vitriolic presidential campaign in recent memory doesn't help matters.)

But rather than tightening its parameters on illegal or offensive content, Facebook announced last week it is relaxing its standards on explicit posts, so long as the post has some news or public interest value.

Rules Around Polling Places

The debates are done, the positions staked out, and most of the storylines have been written. And as one of the most contentious presidential elections comes down to the wire, there's not much left to do but vote. And as polarizing as Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have been, there's little worry of low voter turnout this year.

In fact, there's been less focus on polling numbers and more focus on polling places, with rampant allegations of vote rigging and voter fraud leading to a heightened interest in what goes down at the ballot box. Here's what you need to know when you go to cast your vote.

It may seem antiquated, but alimony -- also known as spousal support -- is still a major factor in divorce proceedings. Even when both spouse's work, and even though it's not always the male ex sending the female money, courts and divorcing parties still need to sort out alimony payments in cases where one spouse earned much more than the other, or one spouse sacrificed specific earnings or earning potential to care for children or the household.

So how are these payments calculated, and how can you get an idea of what you might receive or need to pay in alimony?

Living in the 21st century has its perks, including the wealth of information on the internet. But what happens to your digital accounts and online assets upon the end of life? To answer this question, you need to set up a digital estate plan.

Digital assets don't simply include your email accounts, social media profiles and blogs. They also include any websites you've published (and potentially monetized), and most importantly any e-commerce websites, or digital wallets, where you may actually have real dollars invested. Also, don't forget about your digital music, photo, and video libraries.

Below are a few tips to help you develop your digital estate plan.

How to Legally Co-Own a House

When married couples buy a house, typically both names are put on the title, or deed, and both are considered the legal co-owners of the home. However, that is not the only way to legally co-own a home. In fact, many people that only own half a duplex actually co-own a home and don't even realize it.

Also, it is not too uncommon for friends and non-married couples to buy homes together, and this can be where things get more complicated. Questions arise such as:

What Is Ex Parte Divorce?

Divorce proceedings often mirror the relationship the couple had while married. Calm and collaborative relationships tend to end the same way, while wild and fiery romances go down in flames. And in some cases, one of the parties isn't too keen on breaking up.

A contested divorce can take many forms, from a spouse ignoring or refusing to sign divorce papers to scorched earth litigation. That's why many courts allow what is known as "ex parte" divorce, or divorce based solely on one spouse's filing and in the jurisdiction where that spouse lives, though it is valid anywhere. Let's take a closer look.

Believe it or not, there was a time when a driver's license was nothing more than a piece of paper with an actual paper photo glued on that got laminated. No magnetic strips, barcodes, holograms, or fancy security features. After the 9/11 attacks, the federal government passed the REAL ID Act, which required state IDs such as driver's licenses, to comply with new security measures to protect against counterfeit forms of identification.

While the REAL ID Act was passed in 2005, there are still five states that have not complied, which will cause serious inconvenience for residents of those states. For example, the Pennsylvania driver's license won't be enough to board a plane in 2018.

There's been a lot of heated rhetoric around immigration this election season, and so much vitriolic back-and-forth can leave people wondering where they actually stand when it comes to their rights and the law. And it doesn't help that U.S. immigration law is already an overly complicated area of law.

So here are five of the biggest immigration law questions, and where you can turn for answers, from our archives:

Millennials are just getting to that point in their lives where retirement and estate planning are critical. While those born in the early 80s are right in the thick of it, the Millennials born in the 90s still have time to get ahead of the pack.

Generally, estate planning includes not only retirement planning, but also planning for death and/or incapacity. While the latter may not be something a person in their twenties or thirties wants to think about, it's time for Millennials to realize estate planning is part of #adulting. Below are some basic tips to help Millennials get started on their long-term life plans.

Now that you and your spouse have said 'I do,' you might be saying to yourself, 'I'm finally done.' But not so fast, my newlywed friends -- there are still a few marriage i's to dot and t's to cross. Marriage isn't just an oral agreement between two spouses. It's also a legal institution, and as such, you have some legal requirements to follow through on.

From filing the marriage certificate to filing for a name change to filing your taxes, here are five legal actions you should take after you get married.

How to Get an Absentee Ballot

The election is right around the corner, and with all the excitement, you don't want to be left out. But what if you have to work a double on Election Day, or you're away at college, or are going to be on a cruise ship? The good news is that you don't have to miss out as you can vote with an absentee ballot. The rules for obtaining an absentee ballot are simple, and once you have your ballot, you can vote from the comfort of your own couch.

In a majority of states, getting an absentee ballot is as simple as requesting one, and some states even allow online requests. However, in some states, you may be required to provide a reason, such as illness, travel, or work. You should register as soon as possible since some states have strict deadlines. The rules for casting your absentee ballot vary from state to state, but generally it is as simple as following the instructions in the ballot that gets mailed to you.

Election Day is less than a month away and there's been a lot of talk about early voting, voter fraud, and voter ID laws lately. Donald Trump has even said there will be "large scale voter fraud happening on and before election day [sic]" and that the "election is absolutely being rigged."

Despite pushback from election officials on both sides of the political spectrum and recent studies that found just 31 instances of voter fraud out of some one billion votes cast over the last 15 years, Trump's words are having an impact. A recent poll showed 73 percent of Republican voters think the election could be stolen, and many voters are wondering whether they can or will be stopped from voting at the polls.

And where you have voting rights questions, we have voting rights answers. Here's what you need to know about your voting rights, from our archives.

For most folks, once they've made the decision to get divorced, they want it over as quickly as possible. But just because you've signed the papers doesn't mean your divorce is finalized. Half of all states have a waiting period between the filing of divorce papers and when the marriage is legally dissolved, which can range from ninety days in Washington and six months in California to even longer in some states.

So what's with all the waiting? And why can states put a divorce on hold?

While same-sex couples have the right to marry, when they separate, same-sex parents are finding that many states’ laws have not caught up to the times when it comes to child custody or child visitation rights. Despite the fact that the country supports the rights of same-sex couples to be parents, the legal framework under which child custody and child visitation are decided fails to accommodate the family structure of same-sex parents. This situation is limited to same-sex couples that are separating where one partner either had a child before the marriage, or had a child during marriage, where only one partner is biologically related.

The root of the problem is centered around the concept of biological parentage. Unless a child is adopted by the non-biological same-sex parent, or the non-biological same-sex parent signs the birth certificate (if allowed by the hospital), a court may not recognize that parent as a parent at all, and therefore won’t award visitation, let alone custody. The problem with deciding visitation and custody when one of the same-sex parents is not legally considered a parent is that not all courts recognize de facto parents, and a court cannot award visitation or custody under the legal framework of many states to a person who has no rights under the law.

For parents, they promise to love their adopted children as if they were their biological own. And many children feel a stronger bond with their adoptive parents than with their birth parents. But that doesn't necessarily mean that the legal system sees the relationship in the same way.

Do adopted children have the same rights as natural birth children? What about when it comes to wills and inheritance? Here's what you need to know.

The internet is alive with rage over the recently passed initiative by the University of Maryland's student government that would increase student fees by $34 to fully fund the university's Title IX office, which is charged with investigating on campus sexual assaults, rape, and discrimination. Media outlets are reporting that this fee to fund the school's Title IX office is the first of its kind.

Under federal law, universities are required to hire a Title IX coordinator, whose function is to ensure that claims under Title IX get investigated. While the general consensus is that it is a good thing that the university will be able to fully fund their Title IX office, many seem to be shaking their head in disapproval over the way it is going to happen.

It's a fundamental principle of our legal system -- if you're going to sue someone, you have to put them on notice that they're being sued. Defendants need to be given a chance to respond to accusations against them. But this requirement begs the question: What constitutes notice?

Do you need to hand a copy of the lawsuit to them in person? Can you mail it? Or can you just slide into someone's DMs and drop a summons off?

Most of us aren't employed as lawyers, but that doesn't mean employment laws don't impact our jobs every day. And while you don't have to be a legal expert in order to protect your rights at work, it does help to know a few basics.

Here are seven of the most important employment laws that can affect your day-to-day work.

Before getting a divorce, most couples never really grasp the fact that marriage is a contractual arrangement that basically joins finances and legal responsibilities in a similar fashion to a business partnership. When a spouse starts exploring divorce, they're often left with questions about how it will affect their finances. For example, if you're about to get divorced, you may be wondering whether you will have to pay alimony or child support, whether you will have to move out, and whether the maxed-out credit card will be your responsibility.

Below are the top 7 questions people ask when considering how divorce is going to affect their finances, both in the short term and the long term.

The three Valencia College students that filed a civil rights case against their instructors for retaliating against them when they objected to being forced to undergo transvaginal ultrasounds won their appeal. The Federal Appeals Court ruled that the ultrasounds were not only an unconstitutional search, but also that the instructors violated the students' right to free speech.

This case is as shocking as it sounds. The three female students objected to Valencia College's Sonography program's unusual practice of requiring female students to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound at the hands of other students. All three students faced retaliation for objecting and stating they did not want to have the procedure done on them by another student, and all three quit the program as a result of the retaliation they faced.

The political invective from both sides of the presidential campaign has already been heated, and we can probably expect it to reach incendiary levels in the last month leading to the election. But one of the more sinister suggestions coming from Donald Trump is that the election will somehow be rigged in Hillary Clinton's favor. On more than one occasion, he has even suggested to supporters that they become "election observers" in order to prevent voter fraud at the polls.

But are average citizens the ideal candidates to enforce voter laws? More importantly, are they even allowed? And when does election observing become voter intimidation?

When shopping for a divorce lawyer, most people will want to know how much it’s going to cost. Like any other legal matter, the answer will depend on numerous factors. Regardless of the answer, it’ll likely be more than you want to pay.

Lawyers typically charge hourly rates for family law matters, such as divorce cases. However, occasionally a lawyer may charge a flat fee for a simple or uncontested divorce that does not involve significant assets or children. It is important to note, however, that lawyers and law firms set their own hourly rate, and how each one involves different considerations. So just like your mother probably taught you, you better shop around.

The upcoming presidential election is shaping up as one of the most bitter and contentious in recent history. And behind all of the debates, scandals, and attack ads, another battle has been playing out, one focusing on who will get to cast ballots come November.

We all need to be registered in order to vote, but some states also require some form of official identification in order to receive a ballot or vote at the polls. While supporters of voter ID laws claim this helps reduce voter fraud, opponents contend the laws are used to place an extra burden on minority voters. The conflict has been playing out in the court system recently, leaving many to wonder where their state voter ID laws stand. Here's an update:

If you or a loved one has been trying to get a green card, there's a program that started way back in 1990 that you may have never heard of: The Green Card Lottery, also know as a Diversity Visa. This program awards green cards to 50,000 immigrants from countries that have low immigration rates to the United States. The Department of State has begun taking entries for the 2018 lottery drawings, and will continue accepting entries until 12:00 p.m. November 7, 2016.

The Diversity Visa program is intended to diversify the immigrant population within the United States by only awarding the visas to individuals from countries with low rates of immigration. While a prospective immigrant's country of origin is among the most important factor considered, there is an additional requirement that applicants must have a high school education or the equivalent, or two years of specialized job training within the last five years.

When an employer files an I-140 form on an immigrant employee's behalf, the last thing that employee may be concerned about is having the I-140 petition revoked by that employer. However, it is important to know that the employer does have the ability to revoke the petition. Generally, an employer will only seek to revoke the petition in a few limited circumstances, including but not limited to:

Surrogacy seems simple enough: prospective parents who are unable to have children by natural conception and pregnancy ask a surrogate mother to carry an embryo to term for them. Unfortunately, it's not that easy. Surrogacy laws differ by state, and not all surrogacy contracts are enforceable. And then there are the myriad issues that can come up during and after any pregnancy.

Here are three of the biggest questions surrogate mothers and prospective parents face, and where to find some answers.

Prior to an adoption being finalized by the court, the birth mother, or birth father, will retain the legal rights to their child. After the adoption process is finalized by a court, both birth parents lose all legal rights to their child. This means that a biological mother will not have the right to make important life decisions on behalf of her child, nor will she have the right to petition for custody or even visitation.

When an adoption is finalized by the courts, the birth parents are terminating all parental rights. Terminating all parental rights allows the adoptive parents to step in to become the child’s legally recognized parents. In order to complete the adoption process, birth parents must relinquish their parental rights.

Divorce is one of the hardest legal events anyone will ever face. When you divorce, you face losses that are not just emotional, but financial and legal as well. This blog series will help answer some basic questions you might have about divorce.

Back in the day, child support generally fell on the father after a divorce, and only ended on the day the child turned 18. Nowadays, more mothers are working, same-sex couples are getting married, having kids, and divorcing, and there are more factors taken into account when deciding how long child support will continue. The general idea of child support -- that the non-custodial parent pays the custodial parent some amount for the child's food, clothing, school, etc. -- is still the same, but determining who pays, how much, and for how long has gotten a bit more complicated.

Here are five of the biggest child support questions, and some answers from our archives:

In every state, courts have recognized that grandparents have an interest in the well being of their grandchildren. However, each state has different rules when it comes to awarding shared custody rights to grandparents. Courts generally will look to the grandparents to take custody, at the grandparent’s request, if the parents have terminated custody, or died. When it comes to sharing custody, in states that allow this, courts look to various factors to see if shared custody is in the best interest of the child.

There are different ways for grandparents to share custody. For instance, a grandparent can be awarded either legal or physical custody, or both. Grandparents and parents can also agree to nearly any sort of shared custody arrangement, sharing both physical and/or legal custody. Additionally, courts may also award grandparents with visitation rights.

If you’re involved in a messy divorce, or maybe one that is going suspiciously smoothly, you may be considering hiring a private investigator (P.I.). Private investigators can often be helpful. For example, a private investigator may be able to find out if your soon-to-be former spouse has been hiding money, misrepresenting their living situation, mistreating the children, or misrepresenting their financial situation in other ways (such as running a cash business on the side).

While many individuals will consider doing the investigative work on their own, this is generally not advised. First off, your credibility is already going to be in question as a party to the matter, whereas a private investigator, who will generally be licensed, will not testify to anything they do not have evidence to support thereby bolstering their credibility. Also, there are legal limits to spying on our spouse.

We are constantly reminded -- and constantly reminding our children -- that what goes on the internet stays on the internet. While the internet has made everything from communication to shopping easier, it's also made it easier for our online mistakes to catch up with us and for online marketers to track us across the web. It may seem impossible to cut the cord at this point, rest assured that there are ways to delete yourself from the internet.

Here are a few legal tips to removing your personal information from the internet.

You know you might need a divorce lawyer, but how do you go about finding the one that's right for you? Google? Phone a friend? Your cousin the real estate attorney? And even if you've got the name of a divorce lawyer, how do you find out if she's qualified and if you can work well together?

You and your divorce attorney need to be on the same page. So here are five questions to ask during your initial consultation to see if you've found the best divorce lawyer for you.