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

August 2017 Archives

It's not untrue to say that Donald Trump has had a 'busy' presidency -- the Twitterer-in-Chief has been as active on social media as he has been with executive orders. But many of those orders have been met with litigation and currently stand somewhere in legal limbo between lawsuits filed and Supreme Court review.

One of Trump's most active areas of executive authority has been immigration. Here's the latest on Trump's immigration reform efforts, where they stand (legally speaking), and what they could mean.

Generally speaking, courts are fairly deferential to schools on educational matters, except possibly when it comes to race. And while the Supreme Court has major rulings on school desegregation and affirmative action, this might be the first time a federal court has taken up the issue of race in a school district's curriculum.

Arizona had passed legislation prohibiting courses "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," which targeted a decades-long, voluntary Mexican American Studies program for K-12 students in the Tucson Unified School District. But a federal judge ruled the ban was "enacted and enforced with a discriminatory purpose," and is therefore unconstitutional.

Over the course of three tweets last month, President Donald Trump expressed his intent to ban transgender people from serving in the military. The White House made that intent official on Friday, issuing a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security "prohibit[ing] openly transgender individuals from accession into the United States military and authoriz[ing] the discharge of such individuals.

And it didn't take long for the lawsuits to follow. Both the ACLU and Lambda Legal have sued Donald Trump and his Secretary of Defense James Mattis, claiming the ban is unconstitutional and "compromises the safety and security of our country."

You don't always have to tell the truth. And you generally can't be sued for little white lies, like telling your spouse you'd do the dishes without following through, or saying you're "just going out for some cigarettes."

But court is one of those places where lying will get you into serious trouble. And even if you're not appearing in court, filing false documents or claims with the court can be just as bad. As tempting as you might be to embellish or exaggerate your situation, especially in a divorce case, telling the truth in court, and in court documents, is the only way to go.

For low-income families, access to child care can be crucial. After all, if you can't trust that your child will be cared for while you're at work, you're probably not going to work. But as many parents know, finding affordable child care is a challenge. So there are local, state, and even federal programs in place to help working parents afford day care for their children.

While these services can change the lives of low-income families, the subsidies themselves are subject to change. When that happens, parents will often receive what is known as a "Notice of Action," advising them of the change. This can be a scary process, so here is some information on the notices and how to handle them.

It seems like every big news story has a legal angle. What are the limits for free speech when it comes to racism and public demonstrations? Can the president do anything he wants when it comes to immigration, and are courts allowed to stop him? What is a grand jury subpoena?

Knowing the nuts and bolts of the laws underlying these controversies may affect how we view them, but not all of us have law school degrees, so how do we assess the legal assertions made in news coverage of the biggest stories? Lucky for us, we have the American Bar Association, who just launched their Legal Fact Check website, designed to "separate legal fact from fiction."

Of course you're going to text with your spouse, just like you would anyone else. (Well, maybe not just like anyone else, but you get the point.) And if your spouse is becoming your ex, there might be some things contained in your text messages you don't want seeing the light of day, much less a divorce proceeding.

But if your soon-to-be-ex's attorney subpoenas your text messages, do you have to hand them over? Isn't there some kind of marriage privilege?

No private party can ban you from owning a gun. However, if you rent your home, your landlord might be able to prevent you and other tenants from bringing, or keeping, a gun in your own home. Also, know that you can be evicted for possessing a gun if your rental or lease agreement prohibits it.

While the Second Amendment does protect the rights of gun owners, it only protects those rights from governmental intrusion, just like the First Amendment and free speech. This means that unless your landlord is a governmental entity, like a city, or state, agency, or receives state or federal funding for rental assistance on your property, the Second Amendment is unlikely to apply.

Whether you're just getting divorced or still hashing out custody issues with an old ex, you're probably wondering if you need the help of an attorney. Beyond having expertise in the field generally and familiarity with the court or judges involved specifically, an experienced child custody lawyer can act as a reasoned buffer between you and your ex (and possibly his or her attorney).

But how do you get a sense of the custody procedures and process and figure out which custody lawyer is right for you? Here are five questions to ask a potential child custody attorney, before you hire them.

It's about that time -- your nest is about to get a little emptier. There are a lot of emotions that can bubble up when a child goes off to college, much of it is apprehension and fear for their wellbeing. And while you might be focusing on the physical, emotional, and financial risks (as well as that GPA), there are some legal risks to be aware of as well.

So here are a few legal thoughts to throw on that college packing list before your child heads to campus:

Married couples frequently hold bank accounts jointly. When a couple divorces, the marital property and assets, including joint bank accounts, must be divided. But do you have to maintain that joint account during the divorce process?

Many divorcing individuals are often confused about the rules for joint bank accounts once the divorce process gets started. Below, you can find some guidance, but be careful, as the laws governing divorce vary from state to state, so it'll always be best to check with a local attorney before taking action.

The majority of employment arrangements are at-will, meaning either the employer or employee can end the employment for whatever reason or no reason at all. But there are some reasons an employer can't use to fire you. For instance, you can't be fired for reporting workplace safety or wage and hour violations. You also can't be fired solely based upon your race, national origin, gender, or religion.

But what about your religious wear? We know that many employers have dress codes -- does that mean they can force you to remove a religious garment like a hijab, temple garment, or yarmulke?

When making child custody determinations, courts and child service agencies will make decisions in the child's best interests, and those interests can be examined through a variety of factors, from safety and stability to continuity of family, friend, and school relationships. Absent clear evidence of abuse or absenteeism, rarely is one circumstance solely determinative of custody.

But one Oregon couple is claiming that a single factor, their IQ, has been used to deny them custody of their two young children, even causing Department of Human Services to step in and take the couple's second child before he could even leave the hospital.

When we go to an attorney's office, we pretty much expect that the billing clock will start ticking as soon as everyone sits down. Aside from an initial consultation or contingency fee arrangement, most lawyers aren't in the business of giving their time and advice for free.

But what if your lawyer comes to you? Or needs to go somewhere to view evidence or take a deposition? Is she billing you for the time spent in transit? And does travel time cost the same as legal research or court time?

Whether it's legal to shoot or kill trespassers is one of our most common property law questions. Short answer: generally only in self-defense and in fear of bodily harm or death. And while we normally don't think of animal trespassers in this light, perhaps we should.

An unidentified Texas man was recently hospitalized and had his jaw wired shot after a bullet he fired at an armadillo in his yard at 3 a.m. ricocheted off the animal's armor and struck him in the face. The status of the armadillo is unknown, but the man's unfortunate fate raises an interesting legal question: When can you legally kill animals on your property?

When debt becomes overwhelming, bankruptcy becomes an option. The idea behind bankruptcy is that some of your debt is erased to allow you pay for essential life expenses or repay other debts. The key to that last sentence is “some of your debt is erased.” Not all debt is dischargeable in bankruptcy, and which debts are dischargeable may depend on what type of bankruptcy you’re filing.

So how do you know which debts will be dischargeable in bankruptcy, and how do you differentiate between dischargeable and non-dischargeable debt? Find out below.

One of the tropes often trotted out in immigration debates is the notion that undocumented immigrants are getting services meant for citizens without paying into the system that funds those services. While this has been proven untrue (Pew Research estimates 8 million undocumented workers and their employers paid $13 billion in payroll taxes in 2010), the myth of undocumented immigrants getting a free ride in the U.S. persists.

And few forums are as ripe for this sentiment as public education. So can undocumented immigrant children attend public schools?

President Donald Trump hasn't been shy about his stance on immigration. He's trying to block refugees and immigrants from several Muslim-majority countries, he wants to build a wall on the U.S. border with Mexico, and his Department of Homeland Security rolled back an Obama-era program that protected immigrant parents of a citizen or legal resident children.

Then this week he threw his support behind legislation that would slash legal immigration while altering the criteria for entry. Here's what the so-called RAISE Act would do.

According to an internal Justice Department document obtained by the New York Times, the DOJ is looking for lawyers interested in working for a new project on "investigations and possible litigation related to intentional race-based discrimination in college and university admissions." The Times also reports that the project will likely be run by the Trump administration's political appointees in the DOJ's front office, rather than career civil servants in the Educational Opportunities Section, and will examine and possibly sue schools over admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.

The move is unlikely to alter race-based college or university admissions policies, which the Supreme Court confirmed were constitutional last year.

You've probably seen it on a restaurant receipt if you've dined out in a large group: an automatic gratuity charge. Normally reserved for parties of eight or ten or more, the mandatory gratuity (or "forced tipping" for the less generous) is generally around 18 percent of the total bill and has become a staple in the restaurant industry.

And, according to a recent USA Today account, it's becoming more prevalent on cruise ships as well. But are automatic gratuity charges legal? And are those tips really going to crew members, "in recognition of their service?"

Between Obamacare and workers' compensation, auto and home policies, and even whether you want coverage on that box you're mailing, our lives are constantly surrounded by insurance policies. If something is valuable and its damage or loss would cause you harm, it can be insured. But despite the myriad policies and plans, most people are in the dark when it comes to the basics of insurance coverage and the law that applies to insurance claims.

Lucky for you, FindLaw is here to help. Our Learn About the Law section just unveiled dozens of insurance-specific articles to give you all the information you need about what can be covered by an insurance policy, what those policies can contain, buying and selling insurance policies, and how to make a claim if something goes wrong. Here's a look.