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

June 2017 Archives

If you provide temporary rentals via services like Airbnb and VRBO (Vacation Rentals By Owner), not being aware of the legal liabilities can result in severe financial consequences. For instance, if someone is injured in your rental, or you fail to abide by local laws, the financial liability could significantly eclipse any of the monetary benefits.

However, being informed and prepared can help to ensure that even when things go wrong, you won't be left in the lurch. Below are the top three legal questions people ask when they want to rent out their home to short term renters.

One of the most contentious issues in the U.S. immigration debate involves the provision of public assistance to immigrants. Recently, during a rally, President Donald Trump riled up his crowd by stating that he planned on passing a law preventing immigrants from receiving welfare benefits for their first five years in the country.

This statement not only drew cheers from Trump's crowd, known to be anti-immigration, but it also drew much criticism. The criticism focused on the fact that a law to this effect has already existed for 20 years.

Clearly there is some confusion on this issue. Although immigrants are banned from federal welfare benefits, it's important for immigrants to know that there are some exceptions. Also, there are non-federal resources an immigrant may be able to utilize.

Summer is now officially upon us. Along with the long days, warm nights, and summer vacations, millions of people will be driving to the beach for some fun in the sun.

However, when it comes to driving in beachwear (like flip flops or extra dark sunglasses), for the most part, there's nothing to worry about it, at least legally. However, some choices are better than others.

Here are five frequently asked legal questions about driving in beachwear, and information to help keep you safe.

The question of whether your child can testify in a divorce proceeding depends on several factors. Among the most important variables a judge will consider when deciding whether to allow a child to testify is their age and maturity. Basically, judges must ensure that witnesses are competent to testify, much like when a defendant is ruled competent to stand trial.

If a child is found to be competent and able to testify, the next consideration a court may take into account is the purpose for calling the child as a witness. Courts are generally reluctant to put a child in the position of providing testimony in a divorce for the purposes of division of property, but will do so regularly to help decide custody matters (if the child is old and mature enough).

Between the people and the property, there are a lot of moving parts in a divorce. And while we often focus, for good reason, on the easy-to-spot issues like custody, child and spousal support, and who gets the house, we often forget to keep our eye on smaller financial issues like retirement benefits, investment funds, or inheritance.

Whether you're the beneficiary of an inheritance before the divorce or you're concerned about your children's inheritance after the divorce, here's how courts generally handle inheritance issues in a divorce.

Summer is here, which means it's road trip time! And if packing up the car, truck, camper van, or RV includes packing a firearm, that means taking a little more care on the nation's highways and byways, legally at least.

Gun control laws can vary significantly from state to state, so if you're planning an interstate road trip, make sure you're aware of each jurisdiction's firearm statutes. And here are some other legal issues you should be familiar with, from our archives:

When it comes to a person's diary or their personal private journal, the truth is that these are rarely going to be considered confidential in a court of law. A person seeking emotional distress damages in a lawsuit, or embroiled in a nasty custody dispute or divorce, may be required to turn over their personal diary.

Diaries are, however, private as opposed to confidential. Barring extraordinary circumstances, diaries cannot be published or broadcast without permission.

If you're one of the many people who bought a house as a rental investment property or decided to become a landlord instead of selling a home, you may be looking to sell that house. Whether the hassle of tenants has become too much, or the housing market has finally bounced back and you can get a great price on the home, you might be looking to boot your tenant and sell right away.

But hold on -- there might be some legal restrictions on selling a home when you have a tenant renting it, depending on where you live and what the buyer wants to do with the property. Here's a look.

Summer is officially upon us. And if your teen hasn't gone out and gotten a summer job yet, what are they waiting for? Time is running out to get them off the couch and out into the real world, where they can learn valuable life lessons of punctuality, diligence, and hard work, and maybe make their own spending money for a few months.

And while teenagers will be, for the most part, treated like adults in the workplace, there are a few legal ins and outs of hiring teenagers, being a working teen, and seasonal employment. Here's a look:

Whether you're looking forward to debt relief or can't wait to be free from a previous filing, one of the biggest questions involving bankruptcy is: How long is this going to take?

Unfortunately, there's no definitive answer. How long your bankruptcy case will take, from filing to debt relief and beyond, can depend on a variety of factors, including the type of bankruptcy filing and your specific kind and amount of debt. Here's a look at those factors, as well as a general bankruptcy timeline.

People who have been sued will often ask their attorneys if their assets, income, and money in the bank can be taken from them due to the lawsuit. Unfortunately, after a court judgment has been issued against a person, the court can then order enforcement of the judgment. If you don't have the cash on hand, or insurance, to cover a judgment, court ordered enforcement is a possibility.

But if a person is "judgment proof," a court judgment could be worth less than the paper it's printed on. Unlike a bankruptcy which can discharge a court ordered debt or judgment, being judgment proof essentially renders a court ordered debt worthless, unless circumstances change.

Summer camping season is upon us. Camping can be good, wholesome fun, but doing it legally can prevent a good time from going sour. According to some statistics, nearly 14 percent of the country enjoys some form of camping annually.

However, a peaceful night under the stars can actually land you, your friends, and maybe even your family, in police custody. Well, it could happen if you go camping on another person's property, or on publicly owned land.

Below are three simple questions to help you figure out if you're a camper or trespasser.

In both his campaign rhetoric and his executive orders since becoming president, Donald Trump has been bullish on immigration. And while some of that executive action hasn't had its intended effect, immigration arrests have risen sharply since Trump took office, leaving many immigrants wary of their status -- and their safety -- in the United States.

That uncertainty wasn't helped with two seemingly contradictory actions from the Trump administration last week. On the same day as the U.S. Department of Homeland Security rolled back an Obama-era program that protected immigrant parents of a citizen or legal resident children, DHS also announced that it would continue the previous administration's policy of protecting undocumented immigrants who came to the country as small children. How long will those protections stay in place? And are these policies contradictory?

A trust can be a great way to manage property and financial assets, both during life and after. But there's something about adding family to the mix that runs the risk of taking a great thing and making it not-so-great. While we love family, internal rivalries, grudges, and simple failures to communicate can turn a family trust into a family nightmare.

Here are three ways a family trust can go wrong, and how to avoid them:

Whether your ex will be able to read your diary during a divorce will depend on a few factors, and might even require a judge's order. During a divorce, the separating couple can actually learn quite a bit of private information about their soon-to-be former spouse. In addition to combing through the other side's financial records during a divorce, personal matters can often be relevant when it comes to child custody, and potentially other issues if a fault based divorce is sought.

However, despite how private a person's diary may be, legally, there may be good cause for requiring someone to turn it over during a divorce, or other legal matter. However, disclosure of a diary can be rather problematic and often requires balancing privacy rights with relevance. Although states do allow for divorces to be conducted "under seal," meaning that the documents filed with the court will be confidential, the requirements for doing so are generally rather burdensome.

Generally speaking, creditors in a bankruptcy case are not going to be sentimental about where their payment comes from, and they will gladly take whatever compensation they can get from you, regardless of the source. That said, creditors do not have access to all of your assets -- some of your property can be classified as exempt from being used for debt repayment.

But does that include an inheritance? If Uncle Joe just passed and left you some money, can a court take that money and pass it on to your creditors? And does it matter if he died before or after your bankruptcy filing?

When you have to go, the last thing you want to hear is "no." Depending on the circumstances, it's possible you could have a legal claim for discrimination. 

For one South Carolina man in need of relief, 5 different gas stations and convenience stores allegedly denied him access to their restrooms, despite the man being a paying customer. Adding insult to injury, Daniel Woodward, the man denied bathroom access, believes the denial was on account of him being an African American.

After an investigation by his attorneys reportedly confirmed discriminatory bathroom policies, Mr. Woodward filed a lawsuit to fight back. He is seeking $5 million from the El Cheapo, Pops, and City gas stations, as well as the Obama Convenience Store and the Cheapway (presumably another store).

Being fired from a job can be rather upsetting. When a termination is based upon a person's weight or size, it could very well be discriminatory.

Weight discrimination, under federal law, will sometimes fall under the Americans with Disabilities Act. However, there are a handful of state laws that also provide other civil rights protections. Additionally, weight discrimination can actually be evidence of other forms of discrimination, such as gender discrimination, which is protected in every state and federally.

For the second time in four months, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court's injunction on an executive order banning entry into the United States of individuals from several Muslim-majority countries. And the Ninth was the second federal appeals court in as many months to affirm orders blocking Trump's revised travel ban -- the Fourth Circuit issued their opinion three weeks ago, a decision the U.S. Department of Justice has appealed to the Supreme Court.

That's a lot of orders, injunctions, and opinions flying around. So how is the Ninth Circuit's decision different? And how might it affect the Supreme Court's decision on the travel bans?

What Is HIV Discrimination?

Individuals who have HIV or AIDS will generally be protected under the law from discrimination. However, recognizing HIV or AIDS discrimination may be difficult.

Individuals with HIV or AIDS can face discrimination in nearly every facet of life. Sadly, even children have been shunned by schools, daycares, after school programs, and their peers and other parents. Adults can suffer discrimination at work, in businesses, at hospitals, and also among their peers and colleagues. A recent case was settled where an Iraqi war veteran was denied aquatic physical therapy due to a policy prohibiting HIV positive individuals in the pool.

We know that courts prefer not to separate siblings when issuing custody orders. But what if one sibling wants custody of another? In some cases, an older sibling will want to remove a younger one from a dangerous or unhealthy parent. In other cases, a younger sibling may think they're better suited to care for a disabled older sibling.

There are legal ways to gain custody of a sibling -- here's how.

Alcohol plays a large part in many of our lives, from weekly happy hours and power lunches for work, to a beer at a ballgame or glass of wine with dinner. So it's not surprising that alcohol use could be a factor in a divorce. Booze doesn't always reveal our best selves, and excessive drinking can create or exacerbate tensions within a relationship.

So who decides when alcohol use becomes abuse, and how? And can those determinations affect child custody decisions? Here's a quick look at alcoholism and child custody.

It's no surprise that when parents go through a nasty divorce, the children suffer the most. However, to the surprise of many, that suffering is not limited to mental and emotional distress. A recent study, released this year, has shown that a link exists between children of bitter divorces and long term weakening of the immune system.

The study's findings are rather straightforward. Adults who were children when their parents separated are more likely to suffer from a weakened immune system if the parents were no longer on speaking terms after the divorce. Significantly, the study noted that if the divorce was amicable, the immune systems were on par with individuals whose parents remained married. The study attributes the weakened immune system to the prolonged stress associated with bitter separations.

Here are three tips to help stop a contentious divorce from causing your kids unnecessary stress.

When a person decides to pursue legal action to resolve a dispute, they often envision having their day in court in front of a judge and jury. However, the vast majority of cases never get that far. Most cases settle before trial, and many will settle without the parties ever seeing the inside of a courtroom.

Attorneys and courts have increasingly turned to alternative dispute resolution (also known as ADR) to help people resolve their legal disputes. ADR can include mediation, arbitration, and judicial settlement conferences. These processes allow the parties to a dispute to come together to negotiate a compromise in a confidential meeting.

Here are five of the top frequently asked questions about mediation.

Divorces are rarely easy, and marital property and alimony decisions can be particularly difficult. Age can become a factor in those decisions, especially when retirement and disability benefits come into play. Add to that mix a federal statute governing ex-spouses' access to military retirement benefits and you've got yourself a Supreme Court case.

Howell v. Howell might not be the most glamorous case on the Court's docket, but for veterans and their exes, it could mean a big difference in spousal support and marital property payments. Here's what you need to know.

Bankruptcy filings are tough decisions to make, both financially and emotionally. Most of us are too proud to admit we can't pay our debts, and we're also unsure of the long-term effects on our credit and our lives. And most of us will be eager to return to our normal lives as soon as possible after filing bankruptcy.

Chapter 7 bankruptcy can help relieve your debt burden now, but how long will that bankruptcy filing hamper your ability to buy a home in the future? Here's a look.

A lawsuit against a county sheriff in the state of Georgia alleges that a mass drug search violated the civil rights of 900 high school students. The allegations stem from April of this year, when Worth County Sheriff Jeff Hobby ordered the local high school to be locked down for a drug search.

While conducting the search, in addition to using drug sniffing dogs, each student was subject to a pat down, with many students reporting rather invasive pat down searches. Despite searching every student, making matters worse for the sheriffs, no drugs were even found. Not surprisingly, the school was (less instrusively) searched by local police approximately a month earlier and no drugs were discovered; however, that search apparently was not enough to satisfy Sheriff Hobby. Notably, a similar case to this one settled in 2006 for $6,000 to $12,000 per student and involved approximately 150 students.

Last week, the U.S. Department of Justice appealed the Fourth Circuit's injunction against President Trump's Executive Order on immigration to the Supreme Court, asking the Court to reinstate the travel ban on immigrants from six Muslim-majority countries. And the president himself has of course taken his thoughts on the case to Twitter.

So what will be the government's argument in defending the travel ban? What can the Supreme Court do? And did Trump just sabotage the appeal before it even got started?

Child custody issues are sensitive subjects because of the huge emotional consequences. When a custodial parent dies, custody matters can be that much more emotionally charged.

Although child custody laws vary from state to state, generally, when a custodial parent dies, a non-custodial parent can obtain custody without much legal difficulty. Even though the process may seem straightforward, consulting an experienced family law attorney is always advisable to comply with local laws and to be advised of potential consequences.

When it comes to what evidence can be used during a divorce case, text messages are fair game. However, text messages may be irrelevant to the proceedings, depending on the reason for wanting to use them as evidence.

Text messages are usually wanted to prove infidelity. Unfortunately for the victims of infidelity, only a handful of states allow infidelity to actually have any impact on a divorce.

Hiring a contractor for even a small project is no simple task. But once you've settled on a project, a contractor, and a price, what do you do when problems pop up after the work has started?

Disputes with contractors can be among the most difficult to navigate. Not only do most people want the dispute to be resolved without a fight, but they also don't want to pay more money, or hire a new contractor and start over. The real trouble is that after the contractor starts work, individuals feel trapped.

Agreements often don't get read until after a dispute arises, and only then do individuals realize that their contractor holds a lot of power, including potentially the ability to put a mechanics lien (or other lien) on a person's home or property.