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How to Keep Your Kids Safe From Sex Offenders on Halloween

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. Check the Local Sex Offender Registry While many states have specific laws about sex offenders and Halloween, there are many that do not. Even in states that have laws about this, parents may want to proactively warn their children about which houses to stay away from as most states do not require that sex offenders post "no candy" signs asking people to stay away. In recent years, parents have been utilizing sex offender registries to keep their kids safe on Halloween. Each state has a sex offender registry and database that the public can access via the internet. The databases allow parents to identify where the sex offenders live so that they can advise their children to stay away from those houses. Give Kids a GPS Enabled Cell Phone Some parents may be concerned that simply telling their child to stay away from a house won't actually be enough, or their child won't remember which house. For these parents, letting your child use a GPS enabled cell phone that you can track on a computer or another device can provide much needed peace of mind. Additionally, you can require your child to call or text you to check in every so often, or when they reach certain waypoints, so that you can remind them which houses to skip. For the exceptionally paranoid parent, hiding a GPS tracking device inside your child's costume may be necessary to ease that paranoia for long enough to let your child learn some independence and have some fun. Also, there are several apps that can help you closely monitor your kids while they're out trick-or-treating. Related Resources: Candy or Meth? It May Be Hard to Tell (FindLaw Blotter) Avoid Dangerous, Illegal Halloween Decorations (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Silly Halloween Laws to Make You Scream (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can You Refuse a CPS Drug Test? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Why Voter Fraud Doesn’t Matter, but Allegations of Rigged Elections Do

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. The (Mostly) Myth of Voter Fraud The claim goes something like this: unscrupulous voters could register to vote in more than one place, vote in districts where they don't live, vote more than once, or provide false information to election officials. And as Justin Levitt noted in the Washington Times, this can be a real concern: "This sort of misdirection is pretty common, actually. Election fraud happens ... Or vote buying. Or coercion. Or fake registration forms. Or voting from the wrong address. Or ballot box stuffing by officials in on the scam." And then there's pretending to be someone else at the polls, which Levitt describes as a "clunky way to steal an election." Levitt began tracking allegations of voter fraud, and looked at "general, primary, special, and municipal elections from 2000 through 2014," a data set containing at least 1 billion ballots. And in all, found just 31 specific, credible allegations of voter fraud at the polls. To put that number in context, all 31 of those votes would not have been enough to swing the state of Florida for Al Gore in the 2000 election. As Senator Cory Booker, D-N.J., put it, "You're more likely to get struck by lightning in Texas than to find any kind of voter fraud." The Very Real Voter ID Law Response In response to allegations of voter fraud -- or for more sinister reasons that courts have touched on below -- some states began passing voter ID laws requiring voters to present some form of identification at the polls in order to cast a ballot. Voter ID laws can vary from state to state, from strict photo ID requirements in some states to no ID requirement at all in others. In general, courts have upheld these requirements. In 2008, the Supreme Court looked at Indiana's ID law that required a person to present a U.S. or Indiana ID in order to cast a ballot. (Voters without a photo ID could cast a provisional ballot, and had to visit a designated government office within 10 days with a photo ID or a signed statement saying they cannot afford one in order to have their votes counted.) The Court found the law constitutional, even though the state failed to produce any evidence of the kind of fraud the law was passed to prohibit. But some courts have started to push back on overly restrictive ID laws. The federal Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals recently struck down North Carolina's voter identification requirement, but for reasons that may be unique to the state. Along with requiring photo ID in order to vote, the North Carolina law also abolished same-day voter registration and ended preregistration. But it wasn't just the text of the law that the court had a problem with -- it was the context: ... the General Assembly enacted [the laws] in the immediate aftermath of unprecedented African American voter participation in a state with a troubled racial history and racially polarized voting. The district court clearly erred in ignoring or dismissing this historical background evidence, all of which supports a finding of discriminatory intent. Because the law was passed with discriminatory intent, the court ruled it invalid. Given the near absence of any in-person voter fraud, it's fair to wonder whether these voter ID laws accomplish the goal of preventing fraud, and, if not, what they actually do prevent. Critics of the laws point to a disparate impact on minority and senior voters -- those less likely to have an ID -- and many believe voter ID laws were passed with that purpose in mind. The Fourth Circuit felt the same in its opinion on North Carolina's ID law: "Before enacting that law, the legislature requested data on the use, by race, of a number of voting practices" the court noted. The state's General Assembly then acted on that data in multiple ways, "all of which disproportionately affected African Americans." The Dangerous Allegation of Election Rigging Since August, Donald Trump has been suggesting that the "election is going to be rigged." And the type of fraud he's alleging -- "People are going to walk in and they're going to vote 10 times, maybe, who knows?" -- is exactly the kind that voter ID laws are intended to stop and the kind that happens just 31 times in fourteen years. But the fact that an election can't be rigged or could not effectively be swayed in the way Trump imagines doesn't make his claims any less serious. The legitimacy of any representative democracy is the belief that the government officials selected to represent the people were chosen fairly, and that their presence in government is the will of their constituency. To suggest a rigged election, or a corrupt election process, is to undermine that legitimacy. Absent the legitimacy of elected officials, the laws they enact and represent also lose their legitimacy. And, according to recent psychological studies, the perceived legitimacy of law effects whether people follow it or not: ... people who respond to the moral appropriateness of different laws may (for example) use drugs or engage in illegal sexual practices, feeling that these crimes are not immoral, but at the same time will refrain from stealing. Similarly, if they regard legal authorities as more legitimate, they are less likely to break any laws, for they will believe that they ought to follow all of them, regardless of the potential for punishment. Delegitimizing the election's process and results can have dangerous consequences, both during and after the election. ...
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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. Comply or Cry Frequently, CPS shows up because they receive an anonymous report that they must investigate. If they don’t find any evidence to substantiate the report, typically, that will be the end of it. Because CPS has a position of power over parents, many parents believe that not complying with a CPS request for a drug test will automatically lead to their children being taken away.Sometimes parents believe that by taking the drug test, the investigation will end. However, none of this holds true in every situation. If there are other issues being investigated, a drug test may just be one piece of evidence, and one that may not even be needed. Unless there is a court order, refusing to take a drug test will be viewed in the context of your case, and negative implications can be drawn from the refusal. When CPS Can Drug Test Generally, CPS can drug test only when they have consent, or a court order. CPS will often require parents who have had their children taken away to pass drug tests in order to get their children back. Some agencies will have parents sign an agreement stating that they will comply with CPS’s rules and conditions, and will include random drug tests, as a condition to get their children back. While a parent may still refuse to take the CPS drug test, CPS can then refuse to return their children. In essence, CPS is still getting the consent of the parents before administering a drug test, but that consent may feel rather forced from the parent’s perspective. For CPS to get a court order, they generally will need to involve law enforcement. If law enforcement is involved in a CPS investigation, you should be concerned about potential criminal charges, and should contact a criminal defense attorney. Related Resources: Have family law problems? Get help now. (Consumer Injury - Family) Do’s and Don’ts: False Allegations of Child Abuse (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) Ending or Changing Alimony Payments After Retirement (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Under New Facebook Policy, Newsworthy Trumps Nudity (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
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Ending or Changing Alimony Payments After Retirement

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. When the Payer Retires When the former spouse paying alimony retires, just like any other retiree, their income will likely be significantly reduced, depending on how their retirement is structured. Because alimony is generally decided based on the respective incomes of the parties, when an income changes involuntarily, that party is generally justified in requesting a reduction in their alimony obligation. Courts will normally look to the reasonableness of the changed circumstance. Among the most important factors a court will look to is whether the changed circumstance was voluntary or involuntary. For retirement to be considered involuntary, there must be a medical issue causing it, or the party must be able to show that it was a reasonable time to retire. Taking an early retirement may not be considered reasonable by the court, even if you were advised by your financial planner to do it. Additionally, even if Social Security benefits are the only source of retirement income, they are not exempt from calculating alimony payments. However, former spouses may be able to claim spousal benefits through Social Security, which can reduce their needs for alimony. When the Receiver Retires If the spouse receiving alimony has been working and was still receiving alimony, they will still be able to receive alimony when they choose to retire. Additionally, if their income is significantly reduced by retirement, they may be able to seek an increase in alimony payments. Typically though, the court will assess the reasonableness of this request like they would for the payer requesting a reduction in their support obligation. Laws regarding modification and termination of alimony vary from state to state. If you are considering retirement but are concerned about the alimony you receive or have to pay, you should contact an attorney in order to determine if you can potentially modify the alimony order or agreement. Related Resources: Need help with spousal support? Get your case reviewed by a family law attorney free. (Consumer Injury - Family) Spousal Support (Alimony) Basics (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) When to Get a Second Lawyer's Opinion for Your Divorce (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Is an Alimony Calculator? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Top 6 Legal Tips for Retirement

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: 1. When Can I Retire? This is what we all want to know. While you can start receiving Social Security benefits as early as 62, the longer you wait, the more your payments will be. Find out how to calculate your retirement date. 2. Pre-Retirement Checklist for Married Couples If you're married, you may have a few extra things to prepare for in retirement. Sitting down and mapping your financial future with your spouse's salary and savings in mind is essential. 3. In Divorce, Am I Entitled to Half of My Spouse's Retirement? Whether your spouse has to split their retirement benefits with you can depend on what state you live in. Community property states entitle you to half of the money saved in a retirement plan during the marriage, and you may even get it before your spouse retires. 4. 5 Best Cities for Working After Retirement You may not be the relaxing kind when it comes to retirement. Plenty of people work well past their retirement age, and if that sounds like fun to you, find out where it's the most fun to do. 5. Retired and Working Again: Social Security Rules No matter where you live, working during your retirement can have an impact on your Social Security benefits. Depending on your age and income, the Social Security Administration may deduct yearly earnings from benefits. So find out if working during retirement is right for you. 6. Which States Have the Best Tax Laws for Retirees? Speaking of your benefits, you're probably wondering where your retirement dollar can go the farthest. And some state tax laws are friendlier to retirees than others. If you have more questions about your retirement plan or social security benefits, get in touch with a local social security attorney. Related Resources: Find Social Security Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) 5 Legal Issues You Can Plan Ahead For (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) FindLaw Survey Reveals Social Security Concerns (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can I Use My 401(k) for a House Down Payment? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Social Media and Voting: Update on ‘Ballot Selfie’ Laws

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. In and Out Whether you can snap a selfie at your polling place can depend on where you live. Some states explicitly bar ballot selfies, some states allow them, and quite a few states have yet to clarify matters, legally. The AP published a comprehensive list of state ballot selfie laws, and here's a quick summary: Legal: Connecticut, D.C., Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming. Not Legal: Alabama, Alaska, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kansas, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. Some of these bans are prohibitions on taking photographs of ballots specifically; others are laws against taking any pictures at polling places. And keep in mind that even in states where ballot selfies are legal, there may be limits on where you can snap your selfie and what can be included. Up in the Air There are still 13 states that have yet to decide the issue of ballot selfies definitively. Arizona, Arkansas, California, Delaware, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, and West Virginia either don't address ballot selfies explicitly, have proposals pending, or have laws on the books that state officials have said may not prohibit ballot selfies. So before you start snapping photos of you and your ballot and post them to social media, you may want to consult with a local civil rights attorney to confirm the ballot selfie laws in your jurisdiction. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) New Hampshire Strikes Down Ban on 'Ballot Selfies' (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Snapchat Stands up for Right to Snap Ballot Selfies (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Rules Around Polling Places (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Top 10 Divorce Questions a Family Lawyer Can Answer

Going through a divorce is hard. And it's even harder to go through it alone without any legal help. There are many reasons why you'll want to hire an experienced family law attorney to help you with your divorce. One of them is an attorney's ability to accurately answer any and all questions you'll have about the divorce process generally, and your divorce specifically. Here are the top 10 divorce questions to ask a family lawyer: 10. How Long Will My Divorce Take? Although it occupies the 10 spot, this question may be one of the most important you have. Every divorce case is different, but you need to know what to expect and that your attorney has a good sense of how your case will go. A good family attorney should be able to provide a timeline of your divorce from initial filings to completion. This will also give your attorney a chance to give you a step-by-step overview of the divorce process in your state, as well as cue you into any deadlines or waiting periods. 9. What Is Your Experience With Divorce Cases? As part of demonstrating his or her familiarity with the process, your attorney should give you a rundown of their resume. Family lawyers might be experienced in various types of family disputes, without having many divorces under their belts. You should ask your attorney how many divorce cases he or she has handled, or what percentage of the firm's time is devoted to divorces. This gives your attorney a chance to discuss his or her legal experience -- hopefully in a way that inspires confidence. 8. What Can I Reasonably Expect From My Divorce? This is a broad question, but along with the timeline, you need to ask your attorney, if you hire him or her, what you can reasonably expect out of litigating or mediating your divorce. Your attorney should be able to paint you a range of likely outcomes based on your case, giving you a good basis for what to expect. 7. What Documents Will I Need for My Divorce? Depending on your shared assets and debts, you might need to provide quite a bit of documentation to back up your divorce filings. You may need to bring everything from pay stubs and tax returns to prenups and birth certificates to a consultation with a divorce attorney. And a good lawyer will be able to tell you how best to prepare for a divorce. So know what you'll need before you start you divorce. 6. How Will the Divorce Affect My Business? If you're an entrepreneur or small business owner, your first question might be how to protect your business assets during a divorce. Ask your attorney about which legal structure can best insulate your business from divorce proceedings and whether placing your business in a living trust could help protect it, and its assets, from your spouse. An attorney can also help you create an enforceable postnuptial agreement regarding the business (if you don't already have a prenup) and advise you on the effect of community property laws on small businesses. 5. How Will Our Property Be Separated? Who gets what in a divorce can become a major battle, and you'll want to know where you stand before the first shots are fired. But if not, you may need to divide everything from the furniture to the financial assets. There are two main factors to deciding property issues: (1) whether you live in a community property state or not, and (2) whether the property is separate or marital property. Your attorney should be able to tell you which marital property laws apply, and how those laws will apply in your case. 4. How Will Custody and Visitation Be Determined? More important than sorting out the kitchenware is sorting out the kids. ...
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Don’t Be a Victim in Your Divorce: 5 Empowering Legal Tips

Often in divorce, one ex-spouse can become shellshocked by the process. Paralyzed by fear over family and financial woes, these former partners can cast themselves in the roles of victims. Writing for ABC News, Laura Mattia of the Baron Financial Group believes that women often become financial victims during divorce because of the way they relate to their spouses during marriage. But divorcing spouses can empower themselves when it comes to financial and family situations, rather than taking a sideline in their own divorces. For both women and men, take note of these five empowering legal tips and avoid becoming a victim in your divorce: 1. Be Proactive About Finances. Be proactive about your finances from the start of your marriage through your divorce -- for example, by using a prenuptial agreement. One of the many benefits of a prenup is the ability to delineate who owns what in a marriage and afterward. Even if you're already married, a postnup can accomplish many of the same financial planning goals. 2. Pay Attention to Tax Returns. If you're going through a divorce, do not hand off the responsibility for filing your tax return to your soon-to-be-ex spouse. You should try to communicate with your partner about which tax options are the most beneficial for both of you (if necessary, through your attorneys or a mediator). Doing this will help you avoid being blindsided when you learn that your spouse claimed all your kids as his dependents. 3. Consider Your Long-Term Security. Mattia cautions against relying too heavily on alimony, as it may leave a divorcee financially dependent on her ex. Craft a divorce settlement that covers you and your family's long-term plans (even your kid's college tuition) and that doesn't leave you praying for a spousal support check every month. 4. Stay Smart on Social Media. Don't bad-mouth your ex on social media. Just don't. Not only will it give your former spouse fodder for trashing you in court, but it won't do much for your self esteem either. Instead, consider a social media clause in your prenup or postnup. 5. Hire an Attorney. You know what's the most empowering feeling? Knowing the law is on your side. And you'll only know that for sure with an experienced divorce attorney's help. You don't have to be a victim in your divorce. Use the law to rise above. Related Resources: 5 Things a Divorce Lawyer Can Do (That You Probably Can't) (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) A 'Happy' Divorce? 7 Ways to Make It Less Stressful (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Facebook, Social Media Use Linked to Divorce Rates: Study (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Have a Happy, Healthy... Divorce? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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