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Worst Legal Mistakes Parents Can Make in Divorce

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. 1. Not Respecting Child Custody Decisions and Guidelines You may not trust your ex or the courts to do the right thing, but, unfortunately, you must respect any legal rulings regarding child custody and your former spouse's parental rights. Failure to do so may amount to parental kidnapping, and could mean losing what visitation can custody rights you do have. (And, just as importantly, make sure you pay child support if the court orders it.) 2. Not Following Marital Property Decisions How your property gets divided in the divorce will often come down to where you live and the circumstances of ownership before, during, and after the divorce. You may not lose exactly half of everything you own, but be prepared for a split that will generally try to leave both parents equally well off. Things can get tricky regard the home and the family car, but divorcing parents are usually allowed to construct a fair property split agreement on their own. 3. Dragging Your Ex on Social Media No, that's not a misprint -- "dragging" in this sense means disrespecting someone online. And what happens on social media tends to stay on social media, forever. Meaning that the mean things you post about your former spouse or soon-to-be ex on Facebook, Twitter, and wherever else online will be visible to everyone from your kids to the court. So follow some simple rules for social media use during a divorce and keep those arguments offline and IRL. 4. Not Clearing Up Who Gets to Claim Children Come Tax Time The easy part: Only one parent can claim a child as a dependent on their taxes. Now comes the hard part: which of you will do it? And what if you have multiple children? If this sounds like a simple or inconsequential question, think again. The IRS takes dependency claims seriously and will punish parents for doing it wrong. 5. Not Hiring a Lawyer The legal ins and outs of divorce are always complex, and getting divorced with children will only make it more complicated. Make sure you find a divorce lawyer that you trust to protect your parental and legal rights. Related Resources: Dealing with a divorce? Get your case reviewed for free now. (Consumer Injury - Family) Top 5 Parenting Tips During Divorce (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 10 Common Divorce Mistakes to Avoid (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Top 5 Marital Property Questions During a Divorce (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Can You Sue Your Parents for Child Abuse?

Technically, the law permits a child to sue their parents as a result of child abuse. There are no special rules preventing this type of lawsuit. However, what a child considers to be abuse may not actually be legally considered abuse. Parents are generally permitted to punish their children, which can include depriving children of luxuries such as video games, computers, internet access, a car, dating, seeing friends, or even dessert. A parent can make a child sit in the corner, go to their room, do chores, or worse, babysit their siblings. Depending on the manner in which it is done, even corporal punishment or spankings can be okay in the eyes of the law (so long as they are not excessive) . Why Children Sue Parents Even though it seems rather out of character for a child to sue their parents, it happens. Most frequently, like all lawsuits, it’s about money. Recently, the Canning family’s case in New Jersey made national headlines.The 18-year-old daughter, still in high school, was suing her parents after moving out over disagreements over the house rules. However, the legal complaint that was filed alleged all sorts of objectionable, questionable, and downright deplorable parenting, ranging from crude comments to irresponsible boozing. The matter did not make it very far, particularly after the judge denied the child’s request for an emergency child support order of $650 per week. When to Sue? In every state, the statute of limitations for a minor’s legal claims do not begin to run until the minor reaches the age of majority. That means that if a state provides a two year statute of limitations on a particular claim, and a child is injured at age 12, they will have 2 years to file their claim after they turn 18 years old. Even if an adult child is suing a parent as a result of sexual abuse, or rape, there will likely be a short statute of limitations of no more than a few years after the child turns 18. Worthwhile to Sue? Regardless of whether the law supports an abused child’s case for damages against their parents, a prospective plaintiff may want to think twice before filing suit. Even assuming that the case is winnable, whether or not a judgment can be collected from a defendant is a wholly different issue. If a parent was convicted of a criminal act related to the abuse, or is presently incarcerated, there is a strong likelihood that any judgment a plaintiff secures won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.To find out if it’s worth your time to pursue a legal claim, speak to an experienced personal injury lawyer. Related Resources: Injured in an accident? Get matched with a local attorney. (Consumer Injury) Student Suing Parents Loses 1st Round, but Case Isn’t Over (FindLaw’s Legally Weird) Son Sues Mom, Pop for Overtime at Family Biz (FindLaw’s Free Enterprise) Homeless Man Sues Parents for Not Loving Him Enough (FindLaw’s Legally Weird)
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California’s Gender Neutral Bathroom Bill

While some states have been suing the federal government for the right to discriminate against transgender people when it comes to bathroom access, California is going in the other direction. The same state that led the way on transgender student access to bathrooms in schools just passed a bill requiring all public, single-occupancy bathrooms in the state be gender neutral. The new law would allow anyone to access these bathrooms, regardless of gender identity. So will the Golden State's take on transgender bathroom access be the norm, or remain an outlier? Equal Rights, Equal Access California already has laws prohibiting discrimination against transgender people, including restroom access. That law allows a person to access common bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. The new bill would take the law further, barring single-use restrooms in businesses, government buildings, and public places from being reserved for either gender. (Proponents of the law also point out that gender neutral bathrooms will reduce wait times, since anyone can now use bathrooms that were previously reserved for either more or women.) But the bill hasn't become law quite yet. While the measure passed California's House on a 55-19 margin, it must still get through the State Senate and governor. And no date has been set for either consideration. California in Context Transgender bathroom access has become a hot-button issue in recent years, with some states expanding access and others pushing back. Most infamously, North Carolina recently passed a law prohibiting people from using bathrooms with gender designations different from those on their birth certificates. But the federal government, who has the last word on civil rights issues, has been fighting discrimination against transgender people. The Department of Justice responded swiftly to the North Carolina law, filing a discrimination lawsuit against state officials in an effort to block the law. And the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission recently advised business to allow bathroom access to employees based on their chosen gender identity. If California's history holds, the gender neutral bathroom bill will soon become law, and we'll all have an easier time going to the bathroom. If you have questions about bathroom access where you live, you can contact an experienced civil rights attorney near you. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Transgender 1st Grader Wins Restroom Ruling (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Legal Rights and Issues for Transgender Children (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Transgender Bathroom Laws in Public Schools: A National Overview (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Life Changes: Seeking a Child Support Modification

When married couples get divorced, the non-custodial parent must contribute financial support. Child support can be agreed upon between parents or court ordered, depending on how contentious the divorce is and the extent of disputed issues. The amount a non-custodial parent will have to pay is determined based on the family's financial circumstances, or ability to pay, and statutory guidelines. When circumstances change the support order can be adjusted to reflect new realities. Change Is Constant Change is constant in life, but some changes are intense and we need help to get through them. The kinds of life changes that generally lead to a modification of a child support order are changes in employment or the discovery or a serious medical condition impacting earnings. Remarriage by the non-custodial parent, however, is unlikely to be a valid basis for a changed support order. Parents can agree to almost anything and if your ex is fine with you discontinuing support because you are starting a new family, that is probably fine. But get it in writing. Parents may modify support arrangements to reflect their current needs but must still seek final court approval for the agreement to be official and legal. Court Approval If cooperation was so easy you might not have split up to begin with, so it's common to make modification requests with the court. Even parents who agree on an arrangement must have it reviewed and approved by a court following the procedures outlined in their state's statute. Generally speaking, a modification must be made to the court that issued the support order, and this applies whether you are seeking approval of an already-reached agreement or need the court's help reaching a new agreement. Proving Your Point Whether you seek modification and can reach an agreement or need the court to do the heavy lifting, you should make it easy to get what you seek by providing proof in support of your position. If you can show evidence of a life change so grave it impacts your ability to pay what you owe, you stand a much better chance of having a modification request approved. For example, say you seek a modified support order based on a serious injury or a diagnosis of serious illness -- make sure that along with your request, you provide medical documentation, newly arisen expenses, lost work time, and anything else that indicates you simply cannot make the payments as previously ordered. Talk to a Lawyer If you're having trouble making your child support payments or need a modification, talk to a lawyer and get help handling your request. Many family law attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to assess your case. Related Resources: Find Family Law Attorneys Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Get Legal Help With Child Support (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Summaries of State Child Support Laws (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Determining Parents' Income (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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5 Things You Need to Know About Restraining Orders

A restraining order or order of protection can be a person's last resort against threatening or harassing behavior. They can also be a person's only means to stop domestic violence or abuse. In some cases, restraining orders can save lives. In other cases, they can ruin lives or be a tool for harassment. There are two sides to every restraining order, and cops and courts are often caught in between. When properly administered, restraining orders are an important tool in keeping people safe. So here what you need to know about restraining orders: 1. What is a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO)? Start with the basics -- a restraining order or protective order is a court order enforceable by police that prohibits contact between two people. In many instance, it forbids one person from coming within a certain distance of another, and in some cases can include additional restrictions regarding gun ownership. 2. How to Get a Restraining Order Many courts publish protective order processes on their websites. Either there or at the courthouse you should find and fill out a petition for a restraining order and file it with the court. Generally the court will set a hearing on the matter and grant a temporary restraining order in the meantime. 3. Legal How-To: Responding to a Temporary Restraining Order A person against whom a restraining order has been filed must receive notice of the order, the conditions, and any future hearings on the matter. Normally, this entails a written response filing and participation in the court hearing, which can include presenting evidence and witnesses. 4. How to Enforce Your Restraining Order in a New State Nobody seems to stay in one place anymore. So does your restraining order follow you when you move to another state? Federal law requires all states to honor and enforce valid protection orders issued by others states, but are there additional steps you need to take? 5. Legal How-To: Appeal a Restraining Order Even though a court has issued a restraining order, that order can still be appealed, amended, modified, or dismissed. A restraining order can be appealed on paper or, more likely, in court, and there are better and worse ways to appeal a restraining order. The best source of information on restraining orders, whether you're thinking of filing one or trying to fight one, is an experienced attorney -- if you've got restraining order questions contact one in your area today. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Legal How-To: Fighting a Restraining Order (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Domestic Violence: Getting a 'Permanent' Restraining Order (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can Facebook Contact Violate a Restraining Order? (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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Top 3 Everyday Legal Questions From FindLaw Answers: January 2015

You've got questions... we've got answers. If you have not yet asked or answered a question in FindLaw's Answers community, what are you waiting for? This amazing free resource supports a dynamic community of legal consumers and attorneys helping each other out. Simple as that. We see a lot of great questions in our Answers community every day. Here's a look at the Top 3 recent questions from our various boards: 1. Both my parents passed away without a will. There is a family cabin (not worth very much money) that I would like to have and my sister does not want. How do I go about doing that? This is a great question; issues with wills, inheritances, and general estate planning are popular on our boards. In this instance, the individual is actually dealing with two issues: what happens to his parents' estate because they died without a will, and how to get his sister to disclaim her inheritance. 2. Is it possible to modify child support to ensure that the money received is being spent for the child's needs? My ex-wife spends all the money I give her every month on cell phones for the kids, trendy clothing, and every cable channel ever! This question was posted by a concerned father looking for advice from the community on if and how he can put more restrictions on the child support he pays to his ex-wife every month. An interesting twist on a typical child support question (which usually has to do with changing the payment amount), the simple answer to his particular question was: no. With great responses from a handful of community members, the general conclusion was that the kids were being provided for and that child support is not intended to only cover bare necessities but rather a range of expenses, including things like entertainment. 3. Long story short, I worked for a company for 7 months. During that time, I was promoted, demoted and fired because I was asked to do something that violated FDA regulations. Do I have a case for retaliation? The real legal question here is whether this community member was fired from his company for whistleblowing. This is a perfect example of someone who should speak with an employment law attorney for multiple reasons. Not only are these types of cases time-sensitive, but an experienced attorney can also help a terminated employee figure out whether he has a retaliation claim worth pursuing. What many people do not realize is that the majority of the attorneys in FindLaw's free lawyer directory offer free consultations -- this represents a great chance to find an attorney you like and get a realistic idea of what your case will look like. Related Resources: Child Support Modification (FindLaw) Protection for Whistleblowers (FindLaw) Does Child Support Stop When a Kid Turns 18? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Reasons You Shouldn't Wait to Call an Estate Planning Lawyer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With ‘G’

Welcome back to Legalese From A to Z, our series highlighting the meanings behind legal terms that may not be familiar to non-lawyers. Legalese describes the specialized language of the legal profession -- in other words, things only lawyers would say. With the help of FindLaw's Legal Dictionary, let's take a closer look at five of these terms that begin with the letter "G": Garnishment. Garnishment is a device used by creditors to attach the property or wages of a debtor to repay a debt. Wage garnishment can be used to collect a wide variety of debts, including back taxes, child support, and judgments from court cases. Gift tax. The gift tax is a tax imposed on gifts of property made during a person's lifetime. Certain gifts are exempt from the gift tax, such as gifts to a spouse, donations to a charitable organization, and gifts to any individual up to $13,000 per year. Good faith. Good faith is the absence of bad intentions when entering into an agreement, negotiating, or bringing a lawsuit. For example, in union collective bargaining situations, both the employer and the union are required to negotiate with one another in good faith. Good Samaritan law. A good Samaritan law is a law that provides immunity from liability for a good Samaritan who attempts to provide aid to someone in distress, but inadvertently causes further injury. A good Samaritan law recently passed in New Jersey, for example, provides legal protection to medics and ordinary citizens who administer opioid antidotes to drug overdose victims. Gratuitous. Gratuitous describes an act not involving consideration, compensation, or return benefit. In contract law, a gratuitous promise -- a promise made without an expectation of a return benefit or burden on the promisee -- may be unenforceable if the promisor fails to do what he promised. If you need help with defining a legal word or phrase, check out FindLaw's Legal Dictionary for free access to more than 8,000 definitions of legal terms. Or check back here next Sunday, when Legalese From A to Z will demystify five more legal terms you may not know, beginning with the letter "H." Related Resources: Legalese From A to Z: 5 Legal Terms Beginning With 'A' (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Does 'Wet Reckless' Mean in a DUI Case? (FindLaw's Blotter) What's the Difference Between Bond and Bail? (FindLaw's Blotter) What Is the War Powers Act? What Does It Require? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Top 10 Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

A divorce or separation can be tough on kids, but a good co-parenting plan can help you and your children maintain a sense of normalcy. That's probably one reason why actress Gwyneth Paltrow and her husband, singer Chris Martin, announced they plan to "consciously uncouple and co-parent" as they work through their separation, Reuters reports. If you're also considering a co-parenting arrangement, here are 10 tips to make it work for everyone: Always put your children first. No matter how ugly or costly your divorce or separation proceedings get, always make your children's best interests the top priority. Get a court order. Although it's not required, parenting plans can become "official" with a court order. Depending on your state's laws, violating a legally enforceable parenting plan can result in criminal and/or civil penalties. Live near the other parent. While not always feasible, it may be best for a child if the parents live relatively close to each other so that the child can have regular visits with both parents. Respect each other's parenting style. Parents should accept that the other's parenting style will differ, but that doesn't mean it's wrong. So respect and honor the other person's parenting techniques unless it's clearly endangering your child. Communicate. Communicating openly and frequently with the other parent helps both of you stay on top of what's going on in your child's life. Plus, it'll help avoid misunderstandings that could result in a larger conflict. Create smooth transitions between households. On the days when your kids are spending time at the other parent's home, it may be best to drop them off rather than have the other parent pick them up. Experts say this can help reduce a child's feeling that he's being "taken away" from the other parent. Be involved in your child's activities. Another tip for successful co-parenting is to make sure both parents are involved in the child's activities. Even if you can't stand the other parent, try to maintain civility when attending your kid's school and extracurricular activities. Establish a shared document that both parents can access. Developing a shared account, like a Google Doc or other cloud-based document, that both parents can access can help you quickly share information about your children. This can work for emergency contact numbers and extracurricular schedules, for example. Be flexible. Even if you have a co-parenting court order in place, cut the other parent some slack if an unexpected change occurs and he or she has to change your agreed-upon schedule. (If the other parent routinely does this, however, then it may be time to modify your co-parenting plan.) Hire an attorney. Consulting an experienced family law attorney in your area can be helpful for figuring out and drafting a co-parenting plan, especially if issues like child support or custody are involved. While it may be tough to be around your ex, a successful co-parenting plan will set the ground rules and can help your kids better deal with your divorce or separation. Related Resources: Co-Parenting After Divorce (Psychology Today) Gwyneth Paltrow, Chris Martin Separate: Will Co-Parenting Work? (FindLaw's Celebrity Justice) Hi-Tech Help for Co-Parenting After Divorce (FindLaw's KnowledgeBase) Moving & Child Custody: 3 Important Questions (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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5 Legal Issues Single Parents Commonly Face

Today is National Single Parents' Day, an observance that began 30 years ago with a proclamation by President Ronald Reagan. While raising a child isn't easy, dealing with legal issues as a single parent can make your life even more challenging. But even though you can deal with many of legal issues on your own, you don't always have to go it alone. Here are five legal issues that single parents commonly face -- keeping in mind that professional help is just a click or a phone call away: Child custody. Custody can include both physical and legal custody. Physical custody determines where a child will live and is usually determined by where the kid goes to school and whether or not a court can grant sole or joint physical custody. On the other hand, legal custody determines who gets to make decisions for the child, including medical care or religious instruction. For a concise overview of this topic, check out FindLaw's free Guide to Child Custody. Child support. Whether you're paying or collecting child support, this is often a major legal issue for single parents. It's important to remember that child support amounts aren't set in stone and can be modified according to your new income or special needs of your child. FindLaw's free Guide to Getting Child Support Payments provides a summary of what you need to know. Rebellious teens. Even if your teenagers are driving you crazy, it's not the best idea to kick them out of your house and make them fend for themselves -- unless they are legally emancipated. Often, kicking out an underage child who isn't emancipated and refusing to support that child can be considered child abandonment and can lead to criminal charges. Adoption. While states usually don't prohibit an unmarried person from adopting a child, adoption agencies may have different policies when it comes to single parents. In fact, some agencies may prohibit single parents from adopting altogether. Housing discrimination. Under the Fair Housing Act, it's illegal to deny housing to people based on familial composition, the presence of children, or gender stereotypes. So landlords can't refuse to rent you a house solely based on the fact that you're a single parent or that your kids will be living there with you -- even though some may try. Of course these are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to legal issues facing single parents. If you find yourself a bit overwhelmed, let an attorney experienced in dealing with your specific type of issue help you figure out the best solution for you and your family. Related Resources: Top 10 Legal Issues for Single Moms (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What to Do If Ex-Spouse Won't Pay Support? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Single Parents at Work: 3 Legal Facts for Employers (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) Sign Up for Our Free Legal Planning Newsletter (FindLaw's Legal Heads-Up)
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