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

February 2017 Archives

Every worker in the US knows that federal and state laws protect them from discrimination, sexual harassment, retaliation, and unsafe working conditions. However, the laws that govern employment vary from state to state and are often rather nuanced.

If you sacrificed a career or earning potential to care for your children during a marriage, you may be worried about how you'll support yourself and your children after a divorce. Beyond the emotional and financial stress, you may be wondering if you'll still be able to stay at home with your kids, or even where that home might be.

Rest assured that there are two legal tools at your disposal: child support and spousal support. But these can work in different ways and securing financial support after a divorce (and making sure your ex pays) is not always easy. Here's a look.

The sale of a home is a complex business transaction, in and of itself. Doing business with family members can be fraught with complications. Naturally then, selling a home to a family member is both complex and complicated.

In addition to the potential emotional baggage and turmoil that can get wrapped up in a business deal or transaction between family members, there may be legal issues as well. Here are five legal tips on how to avoid the complications that come with selling a home to a family member.

Can Trump Cancel the Iran Deal?

In 2015, the United States and Iran negotiated a historic deal to curtail Iran's nuclear program in return for a rollback on international economic sanctions. But, like many other Obama-era policies, President Trump has indicated his displeasure with the deal, declaring Iran "should write us a letter of thank you" for "the stupidest deal of all time."

This would seem to be a clear indication that Trump would want the U.S. to back out of the Iran deal, but is that even possible at this point?

What Is Freedom of the Press?

The First Amendment states plainly that "Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." But without more details, that leaves a lot of scenarios unaccounted for. Does the press have unfettered access to anywhere or anyone? How do we define who "the press" is? And can they say whatever they want?

Many of these questions are being asked today, as the Trump Administration barred reporters from the New York Times, BuzzFeed News, CNN, the Los Angeles Times, and Politico from the West Wing for the scheduled briefing with press secretary Sean Spicer.

Top 10 Tax Law Questions

If Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year, Tax Season is the most less-wonderful and slightly stressful time of the year. And unless you've got a big return coming, you're probably delaying your tax filing as long as possible.

But there can be some advantages to procrastination -- you can get some of your biggest tax law questions answered before you file. Here they are:

We might not be living in Aldous Huxley's 'Brave New World' or the film Gattaca quite yet, but with every passing day, we seem to be getting closer.

As science and medical technology advance in the areas of artificial conception and designer babies, legal issues are often the barrier that prevent new tech from being used. This is also true for artificial wombs.

Although researchers believe that being able to gestate a human being inside an artificial womb to full term is still several years away, legal hurdles could prevent researchers from being able to get there, at least for humans. In Japan, back in 1996, researchers were already having some success with gestating goats in artificial wombs. And, in 2003, a researcher actually was able to gestate a mouse to term in an artificial womb.

Last year, amid a flurry of legal action and confusion, educators, parents, and students around the country requested guidance from the Department of Education on bathroom policies for transgender students. The Obama administration issued that guidance in May, asserting that public schools receiving federal funds must treat students according to their gender identity (not necessarily their sex), and failure to do so would amount to sex discrimination in violation of Title IX. This means students must be given access to bathrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

The Trump Administration rescinded those guidelines this week, yet declined to issue any new directives. That means it will likely be up to the courts to decide the issue.

Judging from leaks to media and porn sites (and subsequent lawsuits), it seems that the only people without sex tapes these days are people without access to a video camera. And far too often, those tapes aren't so much "leaked" as they are nefariously posted to the internet by scorned lovers lashing out after a breakup.

Known colloquially as "revenge porn," the non-consensual posting of intimate recordings can have disastrous consequences. The problem with any sort of privacy agreement between couples is holding both parties to it after a breakup. But a new app, dubbed a "prenup" for sex tapes, could mean an end to revenge porn.

Along with the new executive branch's hard-line anti-immigration stance, legal questions have arisen as to how far the federal government can go in their efforts to enforce immigration laws. One such recently raised question is whether the National Guard can be used to enforce immigration laws and deportations.

The executive branch currently maintains that there are no plans to use the National Guard to enforce immigration laws or form a deportation force. However, reports are indicating that the idea has been discussed, which raises questions as to whether it is legal to use the National Guard in that manner.

It happens everyday. People get arrested and put in jail. Sometimes it’s for something serious and a person will be locked up for months or years. Sometimes it’s only an overnight stay or a few days. But for friends and family of someone who seems to just disappear, if after checking local hospitals doesn’t turn up anything, checking with police and the jails should be the next step.

If you are concerned that a friend, family member or loved one has been arrested or incarcerated, you may be wondering how you can find out. Thanks to the internet, it has become much simpler in nearly every jurisdiction to find out if and where someone has been taken into custody, incarcerated or imprisoned.

Contrary to certain internet rumors, President Donald Trump hasn't altered the U.S. Constitution. Yet. But could he if he wanted to?

Trump has proposed constitutional amendments in the past and it's no secret that there are provisions in our nation's founding documents with which our new president disagrees. So the question with President Trump is not so much whether he would like to change the Constitution, but whether he can.

Your doctor will want to ask a lot of questions in order to get a complete picture of your medical history and potential health risks. Any family history of heart disease? Do you smoke or drink? Any allergies to medication? Do you have any guns in the house?

That last one, although recommended by the American Medical Association, ruffled a few patients' feathers, so Florida legislators sprang into action, passing the Firearms Owners' Privacy Act in 2011, prohibiting doctors from asking about gun ownership. But a federal appeals court overturned the law, finding it violated physicians' First Amendment Rights.

Divorce season is upon us. And tax season is right behind. And if you thought extricating yourself from your marriage was tricky, just wait until you have to file your tax return, both this year and next.

Tax filings can bring out the worst in all of us, but filing taxes with an ex can be even more of a headache. So here are six quick tips for filing your taxes after a divorce.

Oklahoma has been one of the most aggressive states regulating a woman's right to an abortion, passing 20 abortion restrictions in the past five years. But its latest proposal might be its most extreme yet. This week, the Oklahoma state legislature is contemplating a bill that would require a woman seeking an abortion to first get written permission from her male sexual partner.

The bill is almost certainly unconstitutional, and critics of the bill worry that it could do untold damage to women's autonomy and reproductive rights in the meantime. Here's a look.

People from countries all over the world work their entire lives to come to the USA to find more economic opportunity for themselves and their children. Others find their way here to seek asylum from tyrannical or crumbling governments. However, immigrants in the US, whose legal status is in question, must live with the fear of arrest, detention, and deportation.

When an immigrant's visa expires, or their status does not permit them to be in the country, they can be arrested by federal immigration enforcement officers and placed into an immigration detention.

While Portland, Oregon has been enjoying economic growth over the past few years, unfortunately, along with that growth, renters in the city are facing increasing rent costs. As Portland continues to grow, the housing supply is not able to keep up with the demand, and while the city can build its way out, that solution provides no immediate relief for those at risk of eviction.

Since Oregon prohibits rent control laws, the city of Portland had to take action to protect vulnerable residents from being displaced by greedy landlords seeking to maximize their gains. In response to the slew of recent no cause eviction cases, the Portland city government passed a law requiring landlords to pay for tenants' relocation costs in order to evict without cause.

The idea of internet privacy seems to take one of two forms: outrage that web browsers, email providers, and ISPs have nearly unfettered access to your information on the one hand, and on the other a shrug of the shoulders and a "you put your info on the internet, what did you expect?" The law has tried to find a balance between these two poles, weighing an individual's privacy interests against the public nature of the web, all while dealing with statutes that become antiquated in just a few years.

The latest attempt from legislators to strike such a balance is the Email Privacy Act, which, among other provisions, would require law enforcement to obtain a warrant before accessing private messages and documents stored online with communications and cloud computing companies like Google, Facebook, and Dropbox. The Act is making its third run through Congress in an attempt to become law, but will it fare any better this time than in the past?

The very last step of a real estate transaction, when the sale finally closes and keys are provided, may seem like a simple event. But getting to that closing often involves quite a bit of legwork. Buying or selling a home is an involved process that is regulated by nuanced and complicated state laws that vary from state to state.

While most states do not require an attorney to be physically present on the day you sign the papers and get the key, hiring one beforehand can help make sure you make it to and through closing. Whether someone is a first-time homebuyer or seller, or a seasoned real estate veteran, knowing when to utilize a real estate attorney can be critical to avoiding legal problems, and can even save you money.

Last month, in response to President Trump's executive order on immigration, protests spontaneously broke out at many of the nation's largest international airports. Those protests subsided as opponents won injunctions in court, barring federal authorities from enforcing the order. But that doesn't mean the end.

Those court cases are still ongoing, and Trump has indicated his administration will redraft the travel ban in an attempt to make it more Constitution-friendly, which leaves open the possibility of future airport protests. Are these protests legal? And do protestors' rights differ when they're in or around airports?

Teaching your kids to drive is one of those time honored traditions that has worked its way into American culture. After all, how are your kids going to move out when they turn 18?

However, letting your kid just hop behind the wheel and get on the road may not just be a bad idea, it could also be illegal. Even if you are in an empty parking lot when you decide to give that first lesson, you could still be violating your state's laws. Not to mention that if your child is too young, you could be facing more serious criminal charges.

Below you'll find 5 legal tips that will help you when the time comes to teach your kids to drive.

When Donald Trump issued an executive order banning entry into the United States of individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries, the legal response was immediate. Lawsuits in New York, Virginia, and Boston won temporary stays against enforcement of the order, and a suit from the Washington State resulted in a nationwide temporary restraining order blocking the travel ban from going into effect.

Trump's lawyers appealed that decision, asking that the government be allowed to enforce the executive order while the legal cases played out in court. But in a unanimous decision yesterday, the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued yet another ruling against Trump's travel ban, upholding the prohibition on enforcement.

Restraining orders are excellent tools to help victims of domestic violence, harassment, or crime stay protected against future harm. However, restraining orders are not appropriate in every scenario they are requested. In most situations, fighting a restraining order will be very difficult if there is good evidence against the person whom restraint is sought against.

When there is no good evidence, then it's possible to fight a restraining order. However, if you are facing a restraining order hearing, it would be wise to contact a qualified attorney as there may be more at stake than you realize.

It's important to note that laws can vary from state to state. Laws can even vary within a state from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Below are 3 tips on how to fight a restraining order.

Being seriously threatened with bodily harm is not only scary, it can be confusing. Whether you know the person making the threat or not, it may be difficult to assess when a threat requires you to take action to protect yourself. Also, credible threats can be made electronically through social media, which adds to the potential confusion. However, making threats, particularly threats of physical harm, is illegal, and aggressors could face criminal as well as civil consequences.

Irrespective of the medium of the threat, if you believe the threat is real, serious, and/or the person threatening you has the ability to carry out the threat, you can call the police to report the threat. If you are unsure about the credibility of the threat, you can still report it to the police. If a threat occurs in real life, not online or electronically, then escaping the situation should be your first priority. After reaching safety, you can call the police to report the threat.

As domestic violence becomes less an issue to be "kept in the family" and more one of "keeping victims safe," more of those victims are wondering about their legal rights and protections. How does domestic abuse affect divorce proceedings? What laws address allegations of domestic abuse? Where can I turn for legal protection from an abuser?

Here are five of the most common questions regarding domestic violence and the law, and where you can turn for answers.

Suing government officials and employees is not always possible, and when it is, it's more difficult than most people expect. Whether you have a civil rights case against a law enforcement officer for excessive force, or a postal carrier rear ended you, to simply achieve a legal resolution, there are several barriers to overcome to get justice from the government, even for government employees.

One of the biggest hurdles to getting justice from the federal, state or local government, or an employee, or official, is the legal doctrine of sovereign immunity. This legal doctrine basically states that the government (the sovereign) is immune from liability (can't be held accountable in court). However, while immunity is an actual thing, under limited circumstances, the government cannot claim sovereign immunity to escape liability. This session of the United States Supreme Court is expected to provide more insights as to when immunity defenses will apply to police officers and federal agents that are being sued for civil rights violations.

In response to the 2007-2008 financial crisis, the Obama Administration passed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, aimed at regulating big banks, making their operations more transparent, and keeping them from becoming "too big to fail." Republicans at the time opposed the bill, so it's no surprise that Dodd-Frank has become one of the many financial regulations on President Donald Trump's chopping block.

So what does the Dodd-Frank Act do right now, and what would it mean for consumers if its protections are rolled back?

When buying a home, especially a newly built home, a buyer expects that the builder or developer will stand by their work and take responsibility for any mistakes in the construction. Unfortunately, when a defect becomes apparent, developers are not always going to be liable, and what's worse, insurance coverage may not always be available.

In San Francisco, residents in a luxury condo building are facing this exact problem as a result of their high rise sinking into the ground. Owners of units in the building have filed lawsuits attempting to get the developers and insurers to cover the cost of repairs, which for a sinking luxury high rise building in San Francisco, could reach into the tens of millions or more.

Late fees. Fines. Wage garnishment. Even prison time. There are plenty of well-known penalties for failing to pay your federal income taxes. Add losing your passport to the list.

If you are seriously delinquent tax debt, the IRS can now report that debt to the State Department, who can in turn either revoke your passport or refuse to issue you one. So what kind of debt classifies as "seriously delinquent"? And how long before the IRS clips your international travel wings?

Depending on who you talk to, Roe v. Wade might be the Supreme Court's best or worst decision. It's certainly one of its most controversial. And whether or not you support the Court's ruling, you'll probably end up in a discussion at some point, talking about what it says and what it means for women, for pregnancies, or for the country.

Like many important court cases, there are plenty of misconceptions and misinformation about what Roe means and what its long-term legal impact has been. Here are the five biggest myths regarding the Court's ruling, and the truth behind them.

A group of 6 tenants are suing their former landlord as well as Airbnb claiming that their evictions were illegal as a result of Los Angeles's rent control laws. LA's rent control law covers buildings built in 1978 and earlier, and, like other rent control laws across the country, it prohibits landlords from evicting tenants unless they have a statutorily permitted reason.

The tenants in this lawsuit were evicted because the landlord claimed that the properties would be removed from the market for redevelopment. However, shortly after their eviction, the units were listed on Airbnb as available for rent. The tenants believe that their evictions were done so the landlord could rent out the units on Airbnb for a higher rate. However, the landlord's attorney has commented that the units are scheduled for demolition this month.

For millions of people, pets are more than just personal property, they're family. Despite the fact that under the law, a dog, or cat, or any animal is considered the same as any other personal item, courts are increasingly being asked to decide who gets custody of a divorcing couple's pet(s), or even to create custody or visitation schedules.

While many courts have balked at these tasks, and one Canadian judge made headlines for threatening to sell the pet at auction and split the proceeds, the state of Alaska's legislature saw an opportunity and took it. As part of a new law that took effect January 17, 2017, courts in Alaska are now required to consider an animal's well being when deciding who gets custody in a divorce. The law is a first of its kind in the country.

Maybe your spouse did something so heinous, you can't bear the sight of her. Or maybe you don't feel safe with your boyfriend under the same roof. Sharing a living space can make a whole lot of sense, until it doesn't. But what can you do then? Do you have any legal right to expel an ex from a shared apartment or house?

Sorting out residency when a relationship ends is never easy, but there may be ways to at least simplify the process, legally.

Immigrating to the United States, as a family member or as an entire family at once, can be more complicated than immigrating alone. While some laws favor family members like children and spouses, the process can be more detailed and the paperwork more lengthy. And with a new administration in charge, things could get even trickier.

Here are seven important immigration laws that families should know.

Late last night, President Donald Trump nominated Tenth Circuit Court Judge Neil Gorsuch to the vacant seat on the Supreme Court. Gorsuch has never been shy about his admiration for the late Justice Antonin Scalia (he called him a "lion of the law" during Trump's announcement last night), so perhaps it's appropriate that, if confirmed, he will fill Scalia's empty chair.

The "if confirmed" part is actually a big if, as Senate Democrats are gearing up for a battle over Gorsuch's confirmation. So what happens next on Capitol Hill, and what might happen next on the Court?

When a child custody case requires a judge to make a decision regarding custody, then the judge's decision can be appealed. However, most child custody cases are resolved via agreements between parents that get approved by the court.

Settlement agreements are not appealable, though if the judge made an error in approving the agreement, that may be appealable. However, appeals are typically only used when a party believes a judge made an error (legal or otherwise) in reaching their decision. Depending on each state's civil court procedures, the time for filing an appeal will vary, and can range from a matter of a week or two up to about a month. When a parent is not happy with a child custody agreement or order, at anytime after the order becomes final, they can petition the court for a modification.