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

April 2017 Archives

In our modern times of cellular telephones, energy drinks, and the World Wide Web, divorce is both easier and more complex all at the same time. Modern conveniences make contacting lawyers and gathering evidence and information quite a bit simpler. But divorce is adversarial, and gathering evidence is now equally convenient for your ex.

When it comes to divorce proceedings, matters often become contentious due to the strained relationship that is legally being dissolved. If child custody is part of a divorce, it can get even more tense.

Here are three tips on how to safeguard and handle your electronic data and information during divorce.

Just the thought of getting served with an eviction notice is scary for most people. Fortunately, landlords are not allowed to use self-help, such as changing the locks, making living conditions unbearable, or threats of force, to evict a tenant. Additionally, most states and cities have specific procedures that must be followed for an eviction to be valid.

Unfortunately for tenants, most cities do not have strong rent control protections like in San Francisco or Toronto. This means that in most places, after a lease term has ended, or is on a month to month basis, so long as a landlord follows the law, a tenant can be rightfully evicted with relative ease.

Here are the top three do's and don't's to follow if you've received an eviction notice.

You just got done filing your taxes (hopefully), so the last thing you're probably thinking about is filing them next year. But if President Donald Trump has anything to say about it, your tax filing in 2018 may look a lot different than your 2016 filing.

The Trump administration unveiled a dramatic overhaul of the nation's tax code today, including lowering the rates for some individuals and businesses and eliminating some state and local tax breaks. What will that mean for you? And what could the changes mean long-term?

When there's a death in the family, the last thing anyone wants is a big fight over the deceased's property and assets. Unfortunately, when it comes to money and inheritances, relatives can quickly turn to bitter enemies.

However, there are few things a person can do to potentially help stop relatives from spending the funeral and grieving period fighting over who gets what. Here are three tips on how to minimize inheritance fights between relatives.

Between credit cards, mortgages, and medical bills, many Americans face a seemingly insurmountable amount of debt. And while most of us don't like to think about bailing on that responsibility, sometimes bankruptcy can be our last and only option.

There are different options when it comes to filing for bankruptcy, and one of the most often used in personal bankruptcy is known as Chapter 7. And if you're considering whether Chapter 7 is right for you, a big part of that answer will come down to how much it costs to file. So here's a look:

Thanks to the internet and those blessed meme things, many employees live by the meme-philosophy: Boss makes a dollar, I make a dime, that’s why I poop on company time. However, under the law, employers are legally allowed to restrict bathroom breaks, at least, within reason.

Generally, reasonable restrictions will not prohibit employees from using the restroom when the need arises. However, in production, or client facing industries, employers may require an employee to wait for a co-worker to relieve their position before taking a bathroom break. Additionally, if an employee has a medical condition that necessitates frequent bathroom breaks, employers may need to be flexible as frequent bathroom breaks is an easily achievable reasonable accommodation in nearly all situations.

School safety can be a controversial subject. Although everyone agrees that safe schools are important and essential in every community, not everyone agrees on how to achieve safe schools. Zero tolerance policies began emerging in the 1980s and 90s in response to the increased efforts in the government's war on drugs, as well as part of the Gun Free Schools Act.

Over time, many schools expanded their zero tolerance policies to include other behaviors including fighting, or possessing drugs or alcohol, and even less serious offenses. After the tragic Columbine shooting in 1999, many more schools started instituting zero tolerance policies for students caught carrying weapons. However, now that there is decades of data for researchers to review and analyze, zero tolerance policies have come under the microscope.

Last week, United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions said that he was "amazed that a judge sitting on an island in the Pacific can issue an order" halting President Donald's Trump ban on immigration from six Muslim-majority countries. Despite Sessions' newfound wonder at the concept of judicial review and checks and balances in the federal government (not to mention the vast geographical limits of the country), several courts have found Trump's travel ban unconstitutional, both in its initial iteration in February and its revamped version in March.

Two federal circuit courts have put temporary injunctions in place, prohibiting the federal government from enforcing Trump's "Executive Order Protecting The Nation From Foreign Terrorist Entry Into The United States." So when will those reviews happen, and what could happen next?

ICE, or Immigration and Customs Enforcement, is the federal agency tasked with enforcing US immigration laws. This means that individuals who are suspected of violating immigration laws may eventually get stopped by an ICE agent or officer.

ICE often conducts random roadside checkpoints and targeted raids to arrest and deport immigrants who do not have proper documentation. Frequently, ICE will obtain an arrest warrant, just like regular law enforcement, for a single individual or group of individuals. However, when any person is arrested, even by ICE, civil rights don’t just vanish.

Below you’ll find the three most important rights to keep in mind if you are stopped by an ICE agent or officer.

Being the victim of theft is an awful experience. On top of having something literally taken away, a victim can often be left feeling traumatized. Typically, when a person is robbed, or discovers something has been stolen from them, contacting the police is the first step.

If you know the perpetrator, depending on the specific facts of the situation, you may not want to involve police. However, failing to involve the police will put you at a serious disadvantage when it comes to recovering your stolen money or property. Although you can pursue a civil action against the thief for the return of your property, a criminal action can be resolved much quicker, and net the same result at no expense to you.

When an employer or boss has a ‘favorite,’ it can create real tension in the workplace. The term itself is highly subjective, and even somewhat offensively whimsical. Even if it is based on objective performance criterion, declaring a favorite rather than a top performer is demoralizing and cheapens employees’ performances and accomplishments.

Unfortunately for workers, workplaces can be downright awful. But that’s just one of the facts of life. To make matters worse, unless you’re being sexually harassed, discriminated against, or physically attacked, there sometimes can be very little a person can do without risking job security. Even where legal protections exist, there’s still no real job security, as retaliation happens with alarming frequency. Suing isn’t really a solution, but rather a remedy, which frequently isn’t going to be available.

If you're coupling your latest tax filing with a little spring cleaning, you may be tempted to put the whole year behind you and toss everything. After all, your return is filed and you don't need all these receipts and forms cluttering your home or office for another 365 days, right?

Well, as nice as it would be to ditch it all and rely on electronic records, there may be some hard copy documents you'll want to keep around, just in case. Here are some of the documents you'll want to save for tax and financial reasons.

The Internal Revenue Service announced last week that it would turn to private debt collection companies to recover years-old tax debt, and not for the first time. The IRS stopped using private debt collectors in 2009 after studies showed a three-year program had little success and government employees were better suited to handle the process.

So why go back now? And what do those who might owe a few bucks in back taxes need to know?

Despite law enforcement’s best efforts, getting a fake ID, including fake green cards, drivers’ licenses, and social security cards, can be as simple as walking down the right street, having some cash, and a couple hours to burn. However, getting any sort of fake government identification can result in serious criminal penalties that include jail time.

For immigrants, the risks can be even greater. After facing felony criminal charges, an immigrant convicted of obtaining a fake green card, or other government document, is likely to face removal or deportation, after completing a jail sentence. This is due to the fact that possessing fake government documentation is considered fraud, and fraud is considered a crime of moral turpitude, and those types of crime constitute cause for deportation.

For many people, handling money is a breeze. They work, earn money, live within their means, and die a humble death. For others, money is the eternal, literally existential, problem. When people go so far into debt that the light at the end of the tunnel is actually a freight train barreling towards them, threatening financial ruin, bankruptcy might be a viable alternative to financial destitution.

Bankruptcy is the process by which a person throws up their hands and says: “Court, please save me from these creditors.” Depending on the type of assets a person holds and their level of income, there are different forms of bankruptcy that may be available.

Federal laws make it illegal to discriminate based on race, age, sex, nationality, disability, or religion when it comes to employment, housing, voting rights, education, and access to public facilities. And some states have extended these protections to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity or expression.

Some states, on the other hand, haven't just declined to enact statutes against LGBT discrimination, but have passed laws limiting the authority of cities located within their borders to do so. Here's a look at these anti-anti-discrimination laws.

Many people incorrectly assume that public defenders are available to individuals facing deportation. Despite the high stakes, immigration matters are civil and not criminal under the law, and as such, there is no federal constitutional right to an attorney.

New York State has taken a tip from its namesake city, and has provided funding for all individuals facing deportation in the federal immigration court system in the state.

Caring for a loved one as they age can be emotionally, financially, and legally difficult. Estate planning, long-term care, and guardianship decisions are never easy, and you may also be facing issues with Social Security, health care benefits, or elder abuse.

A good elder law attorney can be a helpful guide to resolving some of these difficult issues and making sure your elder loved ones are properly cared for. So how do you find a good lawyer and what do you need to know regarding your elder law case? Here are five common questions to start with:

A law in the Missourian town of Maplewood penalizes people for calling the police, even if there is a legitimate need for police assistance. As a result of this law, a mother of two, who is also the victim of domestic abuse, was evicted from her home. In other words, as crazy as it sounds: a woman was evicted from her home for calling the police about domestic violence incidents.

Rosetta Watson, who's now 58 years old, was facing repeated domestic violence in her Maplewood home. Even though she was the victim, she was still evicted due to being a "nuisance." After being evicted, Ms. Watson faced stretches of homelessness due to being unable to find stable housing. While the damage has been done, the ACLU has taken on her case, and has filed a lawsuit not only to get rid of this nonsensical law, but to also recover damages on Ms. Watson's behalf.

When separated parents share custody, vacations can often be a contentious issue. Although spring break can be a great time for a family trip, if you don’t plan properly, it might lead to family drama, and potentially a court petition to modify a custody order.

Custody orders will often specify how vacations or school breaks are handled, but sometimes the orders are silent on these issues, or there might not be a custody order in place. If a dispute arises, you may need to seek relief from the family court. As such, if you and your co-parent agree about a vacation that is outside the court order, you will want documentation to prove the agreement.

Below you’ll find three tips to help you avoid child custody disputes and issues related to spring break and vacations.

Every now and then a law comes around banning a thing you didn't even know existed in the first place. Such is the case with New Mexico's anti-school lunch shaming statute, which bars schools in the Land of Enchantment from forcing kids to throw away food, wear specific wristbands, or complete chores if they are unable to afford a meal.

And if you were unaware that children as young as 5 or 6 needed a Hunger-Free Students' Bill of Rights Act, perhaps it's because you didn't know what some schools have been doing to shame underprivileged students.

A California bill making its way through the legislature is stirring up controversy both locally and nationally. The controversy is over the proposed sanctuary state bill, SB54, which would make the entire state of California a sanctuary state for immigrants. While there are already some protections in the state for immigrants from federal immigration enforcement, the new bill seeks to expand those protections.

In short, the bill would require state law enforcement agencies, including police departments, sheriff departments, state prisons, and county jails, to not assist in, or commit resources to, federal immigration enforcement actions, except in very limited scenarios. Not surprisingly, opponents of the bill claim that sanctuaries lead to increased crime, while proponents assert that sanctuaries actually lead to decreased crime and improved criminal justice.

Arrests and jail sentences can throw a person's entire life into disarray. And when that person has primary custody of a child or children, incarceration can affect many more lives than their own. Child custody decisions aren't easy to make in the first place, and if the custodial parent is arrested, those decisions can get even more complicated.

So what happens to children when parents go to jail, and who gets custody?

Immigration is a complicated and nuanced area of the law. Many different factors can have a significant impact on a person's immigration status. Possibly the most feared factors are criminal convictions. A criminal conviction can result in deportation and other consequences when it comes to a person's immigration status.

Fortunately, not all criminal convictions will have a significant impact on a person's immigration status. But, whether or not a person is convicted of a misdemeanor or a felony is actually less significant when it comes to immigration status than the type of crime a person is convicted of.

The Fair Housing Act, passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, protects renters and home buyers from a variety of discrimination based on everything from sex, race, and national origin to religion, marriage status, and pregnancy. But until Wednesday of this week, no court had extended those protections to include lesbian, gay, or transgender people.

That all changed when a federal court in Denver ruled that sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act includes discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, including discrimination motivated by outdated stereotypes about how men and women should act and with whom they should romantically partner.

Living in the 21st century digital world is nearly inescapable at this point. Digital assets abound and can include some unexpected items that may actually possess some unexpected value. Don't believe it? A digital trading card of Hans Solo, that was recently released, goes for $225.

Digital assets can include items that have real, transferable monetary values, like online bitcoin accounts, or simply items that have high sentimental value, such as collections of family photos. Regardless of how an item is valued, during a divorce, both tangible and digital assets must be divided, but some digital assets may prove more challenging to divide. As such, including digital assets in a prenuptial agreement is becoming increasingly advisable.

Below you'll find three legal tips on how to include digital assets in a prenup.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination against employees based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Because it was enacted in 1964, many have wondered whether gay and lesbian workers were also protected under the law.

The Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals answered that question this week, ruling that Title VII protects employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The court reasoned that the statute's ban on sex discrimination also prohibited sexual orientation discrimination because, among other reasons, the discrimination is based on outdated gender stereotypes. Here's a look:

Safe deposit boxes can provide individuals with confidence that important documents and valuable or prized possessions will be kept safe from loss, accidental destruction, and theft. However, courts do have the authority to issue an order requiring a bank to freeze, or open, a person’s safe deposit box.

When it comes to collecting delinquent unpaid taxes, the IRS has quite a bit of leeway, but cannot act to seize assets without court approval, or other particular circumstances being met. In addition to freezing accounts, levying accounts, garnishing wages, and seizing assets, the IRS can get a court order to freeze and seize or force a sale of the contents of a safe deposit box to satisfy a tax debt or penalty.

There were certainly questions about presidential power during Barack Obama's presidency, especially when it came to Obamacare and his executive actions on gun control. But those questions have reached a fever pitch under President Donald Trump, as he has attempted to remake the presidency in his own image.

So what are the limits on the president's power, if any?

Child custody disputes and court cases can be fraught with emotions. When one parent is granted physical custody by the court, or via an agreement, children sometimes express their desire to live with their other parent. Despite the obvious emotional challenge to the current custodial parent, there are a few potential legal obstacles that must be overcome.

Depending on several factors, and your state’s laws, a child’s opinion may or may not matter when it comes to where they want to live. Typically, in addition to the noncustodial parent’s willingness to take on physical custody, the age and maturity level of a child will be taken into consideration.

Apart from these initial considerations, a court will base the decision on what is in the best interest of the child. However, if there is no child custody agreement, nor child custody court order, depending on your state laws, so long as the parents are in agreement, a child can live with whichever parent they choose without the court’s interference.

Divorce can be hard on anyone. And when you add children into the equation, the process can only get more emotionally and legally challenging.

Dealing with custody, support, and yes, even tax issues on top of an already difficult divorce can lead even the best parents to make some bad decisions. Here are a few of the worst legal decisions you can make during a divorce and how to avoid them.

While accidentally marrying a criminal sounds more like the subject of TV drama (or comedy) than a real life occurrence, it does happen in real life. Unfortunately, even when a person marries a criminal on accident, there could be real life consequences. Most often, legal consequences for uninvolved spouses stem from organized, or white-collar, criminal activities.

For instance, spouses that agree to put things in their names, or sign checks, or take other relatively passive roles, can find themselves looking at actual jail time. Alternatively, spouses that merely reap the financial benefits, completely passively, without being involved at all, can usually expect to minimally have those benefits seized and forfeited.

Here are three legal tips on what to do if you accidentally marry a criminal:

When Rebecca Elizabeth Feldhaus and Delphine Renee Baumert attempted to legally change their names -- to Rowan Elijah Feldhaus and Andrew Norman Baumert, respectively -- they were told by a Georgia judge that their choices weren't gender-neutral enough to suit his taste. "I do not approve of changing names from male to female -- male names to obvious female names, and vice versa," Columbia County Superior Court Judge J. David Roper, said in denying Feldhaus's request. "I think it is misleading to the public and think that it is dangerous in some circumstances for one -- for the public not to know whether they're dealing with a male or a female."

But an appeals court has ruled that Judge Roper abused his discretion in denying the name change petitions, and ordered that the changes be granted.