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For Good Samaritan Day, 5 Legal Tips for Do-Gooders

Today marks Good Samaritan Day, a day that celebrates compassion and kindness. But before you pay it forward, make sure you're in the legal clear. As odd as it may sound, there are certain situations in which lending a helping hand can potentially land you in legal trouble. Here are five legal tips all do-gooders should keep in mind: Good Samaritan laws may give you legal cover. In jurisdictions with Good Samaritan laws, they act as a legal shield for individuals who risk the fray to save lives. Under this doctrine, rescuers can avoid civil liability for injuries arising from aid or rescue efforts, as long as the person's actions are reasonable and not reckless or grossly negligent. Good Samaritan laws have their limits. As stated above, there is a limit to Good Samaritan protection. Even a good faith effort to rescue an injured victim can land a rescuer in court if the acts she took to deliver aid are considered reckless. Generally, a rescuer can face liability for leaving a person worse off than before aid was rendered. Liability can also be found when the rescuer's negligence is what ultimately, and foreseeably, caused injuries to the person being rescued. New Good Samaritan laws cover drug overdose situations. At least 12 states have enacted protections for Good Samaritans in drug overdose cases. In these states, Good Samaritans can call 911 to report drug overdoses without fear of legal consequences for the caller or the drug-overdose victim. However, these laws don't necessarily prevent law enforcement from charging anyone with a crime using evidence that is unrelated to calling for medical aid. Civil liability can also exist if the rescuer acted recklessly. You can potentially get fired for being a Good Samaritan at work. Generally, "at-will" employees can be fired by employers on the spot for almost any reason. Good Samaritan laws do not protect Good Samaritans from being fired. One Michigan employee learned that the hard way when he was fired for leaving his post to help a customer extinguish his car fire. Activity-specific Good Samaritan laws exist. Some states have enacted statutes that protect specific emergency care or assistance. For example, Indiana protects the emergency care of veterinarians; Alabama extends immunity to helpers following the discharge of hazardous materials; some states protect those who assist with oil spill cleanup efforts. Happy Good Samaritan Day! Related Resources: It's Good Samaritan Day: Celebrating compassion & kindness of strangers (San Francisco Examiner) The California Supreme Court Holds that Good Samaritans Providing Nonmedical Aid Can Be Held Liable If They Act Negligently (FindLaw's Writ) Good Samaritan Finds Wallet, Gets Wallet's Owner Arrested (FindLaw's Legal Grounds) Taxi Rescue By MBTA Worker: What Is A Good Samaritan Law? (Boston Personal Injury News)
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Does Your Divorce Settlement Cover College Tuition?

College tuition may comprise a large chunk of your divorce settlement, but it shouldn't be unexpected. It was a bit of a surprise for one New Jersey father who was ordered to pay half of his daughter's Cornell Law School tuition -- a whopping $112,500. What settlement language should divorcing spouses focus on when considering future tuition obligations? Child Support for 18+ Although the term "child support" may be misleading, divorce settlements can guarantee support for children of divorcing spouses well into their 20s. Depending on the terms of your child support agreement -- which is often negotiated as part of a divorce settlement -- child support might continue after a child turns 18. In many instances, child support obligations to adult children are governed by state law. But it may also come down to the specific terms of an ex-spouse's divorce settlement agreement. If your agreement outlines specific parental obligations for a child if he or she chooses to attend college, you will likely be held to those terms. You can, of course, attempt to modify your existing child support agreement once a child turns 18 or decides to attend college or graduate school. But absent any major changes in your child support agreement, you may still owe child support toward an adult child in college or grad school. Paying for or Choosing Schools Depending on the specific terms of your child support order and/or divorce settlement agreement, you may have control over whether your child goes to an expensive out-of-state school. Married couples often disagree on this topic, so it isn't any surprise that ex-spouses might come apart when deciding which school is appropriate for their children. Much of the guesswork can be avoided if the divorce settlement or child support order contains specific provisions regarding: How much tuition each spouse is responsible for; Who has the final say in deciding which school to attend; Payment obligations for living on- or off-campus; and Meal plans, books, and other class-related expenses. If these areas are left unexplored, it may be left to a family court judge to delve into each spouse's expectations and the child's best interests to determine college choice and how much tuition is owed by a parent. Consulting an experienced child support attorney can help remove many of these if's and maybe's about whether your divorce settlement covers college tuition. Related Resources: Honors Student, 18, Sues Parents Over Paying for College (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Does Child Support End Upon Graduation? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Legal How-To: Modifying Child Support (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Divorce: Child Custody and Religion (FindLaw)
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Legal How-To: Becoming a Guardian

Legal guardians can be appointed to take care of children and incapacitated adults. So how does one become a legal guardian? Becoming a legal guardian requires a court order. Once the guardianship relationship is established, the guardian will be legally responsible for the care and supervision of minors or adults who are unable to care for themselves. Here are the basic steps toward becoming a guardian: Fill out and file forms with the court. The first step you need to take to become a guardian is to fill out the appropriate forms and file them with the court. You should obtain forms from the county where the person needing a guardian lives. For example, in California, a potential guardian will need to fill out a Petition for Appointment of Guardian (among other forms), file the forms, and give notice to the appropriate people and agencies. This will probably include relatives of the person you're seeking guardianship over. Provide proof that the person needs a guardian. In some scenarios, like if a child's parents pass away, it's evident that a guardian is needed to step in. For children, the court will look at the child's best interests in deciding if you're the best guardian choice. However, for incapacitated adults, you'll need to provide proof that the person has a disability that imposes great limitations upon his ability to take care of himself, earn a living, or live independently without the care of others. For incapacitated adults, the court will likely only give guardians the power to oversee the things the individual can't accomplish by himself. Prepare for a court investigation. Once the forms have been processed by the court, a court investigator will prepare an investigative report. When minors are involved, a court investigator will likely visit the home and interview the child and her family and conduct background checks on the guardian. For adults needing a guardian, they'll likely need to undergo a psychological evaluation that will be presented to the court. Attend a court hearing. Guardianship issues are usually decided by a family court or probate court. Some cases are straightforward. But if there are unresolved issues -- including questions about your fitness as a potential guardian or the capacity of the person to be placed under guardianship -- a judge may order a trial. If that happens, you may want to seek help from a legal professional. Need More Help? While you're allowed to represent yourself at a guardianship hearing, it's a good idea to at least consult a family law or probate and estate planning attorney for more guidance on how to present your case. Local attorneys will be familiar with your local courts and judges, and will be able to offer advice tailored to your unique situation. It may also be wise to call an attorney when you're beginning the guardianship process, to make sure you're going through the steps correctly. To learn more, check out FindLaw's comprehensive section on Guardianship. Are you facing a legal issue you'd like to handle on your own? Suggest a topic for our Legal How-To series by sending us a tweet @FindLawConsumer with the hashtag #HowTo. Related Resources: How to Establish Guardianship of a Child FAQs (FindLaw) What is Guardianship of a Child? The Legal Battle Over Michael Jackson's Kids (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 3rd Party Guardianship Petition OK in "Octo-mom" case (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Sign Up for Our Free Legal Planning Newsletter (FindLaw's Legal Heads-Up)
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Supreme Ct. Lets ‘I Heart Boobies’ Ruling Stand

The U.S. Supreme Court has declined to hear the student free-speech case about a school's ban on "I Heart Boobies" cancer awareness bracelets, Reuters reports. That means the August 2013 decision by the 3rd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with the students who wanted to don the bracelets, remains intact. It's a major victory for the students in the Easton Area School District in Pennsylvania. U.S. Supreme Court Rejects Appeal Upon receiving the school district's petition for certiorari, the U.S. Supreme Court considered a number of factors on whether to hear the case. Unfortunately, we don't know why the Court declined to hear the case. It rejected the case from the school district without comment, which is standard. Regardless, the decision leaves intact the 3rd Circuit's ruling: School officials can prohibit statements that are lewd or obscene. However, messages that might offend some, but also make a social or political statement, are protected by the First Amendment. What If the High Court Had Taken Up the Case? If the Supreme Court had accepted the case, it could potentially have joined the ranks of historic decisions issued by the Court on public school dress codes and the constitutional rights of students. The bracelets case referenced the following cases: Tinker v. Des Moines School District from 1969 (ruling schools can't ban student speech unless necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or rights of others); Bethel School District v. Fraser from 1986 (allowing schools to ban lewd and indecent messages); and Morse v. Frederick from 2007 (ruling a school that punished a student for displaying a "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" banner during a school assembly didn't violate the student's First Amendment rights). The school district claimed the 3rd Circuit had invented a new test for student free speech by relying on the concurring opinion (not the majority opinion) in the Supreme Court's Morse decision. Though the Supreme Court passed on the "I Heart Boobies" case this time around, the issue is still split nationally and could bubble up again in the future. After all, even the 3rd Circuit showed a dramatic split over the matter. The court ordered an en banc review of the case -- as in, the entire circuit court -- because there was disagreement among the judges. Even en banc, the court was split 9-5 in favor of the students. Related Resources: Supreme Court declines 'I (heart) Boobies' (The Philadelphia Inquirer) 'I Heart Boobies' Appeal: Will Supreme Ct. Hear It? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Third Circuit Court of Appeals Hears 'I Heart Boobies' Arguments (FindLaw's U.S. Third Circuit Blog) The "I (Heart) Boobies!" Bracelets Controversy Goes to Court: Why the Students Are Right and the Schools Are Wrong (FindLaw's Writ)
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Getty Makes 35M Images Free for Bloggers’ Use

Getty Images is now allowing bloggers to use 35 million of its images for free as long as they're used for non-commercial purposes. Despite Getty placing a watermark on all its online images, Getty executives are aware that people have been copying and pasting copyrighted pictures without permission. So they've created a new system that allows select Getty images to be embedded on websites, with the proper attributions prominently displayed, Forbes reports. What do bloggers need to know about using Getty's free images? Getty's Free 'Embedded Viewer' Now that Getty is allowing users free access to millions of its images, it's also removing the watermark from the photos it's providing for free. The problem with Getty's old watermark system was that once an image was purchased, the watermark would be removed; once removed and placed on a website, anyone online could copy and paste the image and use it without proper attribution or permission from the original owner. Instead of a watermark, Getty is now allowing bloggers to embed many of its photos -- but only via a new "embedded viewer" tool. The tool drops the image into a blog or website with a footer crediting Getty and linking people to its licensing page, according to Forbes. The footer and link could help reduce copyright infringement because they don't allow users to use the image without including a link to Getty's licensing page. A Reminder About Fair Use Laws Bloggers using Getty's new "embedded viewer" generally won't have to worry about copyright infringement -- as long as they're not using the images for a commercial purpose. (However, Getty doesn't mind if you make a little money off your blog via Google Ads, Forbes reports.) Still, it's important to keep fair use laws in mind when adding images, videos, and other multimedia to your personal (or commercial) website. Fair use allows the use of copyrighted material without permission from the original author under certain circumstances, including: Criticism, News reporting, Comment, Teaching, Parody, and Scholarship and research. For example, if you're a college student researching political issues and you use an image of two politicians at a meeting for your term paper, that's probably protected under fair use law. On the other hand, if a person uses a copyrighted image to advertise his lawn-mowing business, then that's likely to be considered copyright infringement. Even with Getty's free images, using them in advertisements, promotions, or advertising is not allowed. Although 35 million of Getty's stock images are now free for non-commercial use by the public, bloggers don't have free access to Getty's entire collection of images, reports Forbes. For that, you'll still have to pay. Related Resources: The world's largest photo service just made its pictures free to use (The Verge) What Is Fair Use? Consider These 4 Factors (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Do Copyright, Trademark Symbols Mean? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Legal How-To: Copyrighting Your Screenplay (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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