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Florida Woman Sentenced for Kidnapping Newborn

Kidnapping is a serious crime, usually classified as a felony in most states. Just ask Gloria Williams, who was arrested in January 2017 for kidnapping Kamiyah Mobley as a newborn. Instead of going through a trial for the kidnapping, Williams has decided to plead guilty to the crime she committed 20 years ago. What Exactly Happened? In 1998, Williams, posing as a nurse, walked into University Medical Center in Jacksonville, Florida and kidnapped Mobley. She changed Mobley's name to Alexis Manigo, and raised her as her own daughter. After more than two thousand tips to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Mobley was found in South Carolina, and her DNA matched the DNA of her birth parents. The victim has met her birth parents, but has chosen to continue using the name that Williams gave her. Kidnapping Laws in Florida Under Florida's kidnapping laws, kidnapping is defined as the abduction, confinement, or imprisonment of another person against his or her will. The kidnapping must also be committed "forcibly, secretly, or by threat" and without lawful authority. In the case of children who are less than 13 years old, "against his or her will" means that the offender confined the child without his or her parents' consent. Depending on the circumstances, a person may be committing kidnapping or aggravated kidnapping. In Williams' case, she committed aggravated kidnapping since Mobley was under 13 years old when Williams took her. Had Williams gone to trial and been found guilty, she could have been sentenced to life in prison. Under the terms of the plea agreement, she's facing up to 22 years in prison. She's set to be sentenced in May, although it's been reported that Mobley hopes that Williams gets a sentence of less than 10 years. Related Resources: Find Criminal Defense Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) After 20 years, woman admits to kidnapping Florida baby (Associated Press) Criminal Law (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Mom Jailed for Not Vaccinating Son (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Florida Bill Bans Forced Child Marriage

While most people seem to be getting married at an older age these days, the age of consent under state marriage laws varies between 16 and 18. But there are instances where the age of consent is even lower, provided that there's parental and/or judicial consent. While this may seem reasonable since the assumption is that parents and judges have a child's best interests at heart, this is not always the case.Sometimes, due to various circumstances, a child is forced by his or her parents to get married. To address this concern and protect children from being forced into marriage, the Florida Senate recently passed a bill to end child marriage in the state. Why Would Parents Force Their Child to Get Married? When you think about instances of why someone would allow his or her child to get married younger than the age of consent, the first thing that comes to mind is that the child is in love and wants to get married. Unfortunately, it turns out that sometimes parents force their child to get married.This is what happened to Sherry Johnson, who, according the Associated Press, inspired the Florida Senate to pass this bill. The AP article explains that Johnson was raped by a church deacon when she was only 9 years old, gave birth at 10. And after pressure from the church, her mom gave her consent for Johnson (who was 11 at the time) to marry the deacon.Florida Bill on Child MarriageUnder Florida's current marriage laws, a person who is 16 or 17 can marry with their parents' consent. Additionally, there's no minimum age for marriage if a pregnancy is involved as long as the marriage license is approved by a judge. Under the new Florida bill, which was unanimously approved by Florida Senators, all marriage licenses would be banned for people under the age of 18.If the bill is signed into law, then what happened to Johnson will not happen to any other children in Florida. Related Resources: Find Family Law Attorneys Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Marriage Law (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Child Abuse (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) 3 Pieces of Parenting Advice That Might Be Illegal (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Texas Teen Arrested for Snapchat Threat

There's no messing around with threats to schools. A fourteen year old Texas teen may have learned that lesson the hard way this week, as police in Pearland, Texas (outside of Houston) arrested the student for allegedly making a threat against Berry Miller Junior High School on Snapchat. What Was the Threat? "It was something along the lines of, "Don't come to school tomorrow," alluding to the fact that he was going to bring a gun," said Officer Jason Wells of the Pearland Police, according to Click 2 Houston. Details are still emerging. Police began investigating after a parent reported that her children received a message over Snapchat, a social media platform used for messaging and sharing images and videos. An arrest followed and charges were forwarded on to the Brazoria County District Attorney's Office. The student faces juvenile charges of making terroristic threats and parents received a letter from the school district about the incident. Terroristic Threats Online? Making threats of violence is against the law. This is true for threats made online or elsewhere, and joking about such threats is never a good idea. It's one of those jokes that might sound funny to a fourteen year old texting his friends but won't sound funny at all when parents call the cops. State law may require threats to include a threat of great bodily injury or some level of specificity in to meet the high standards for a criminal conviction. Juveniles face criminal charges under a separate system and generally face lesser punishments than adults on account of their age. The idea is that kids are still kids and shouldn't be held to the same standards as adults. Related Resources Find a Criminal Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) What Are 'Terroristic Threats'? (FindLaw's Blotter) When Can Posts on Snapchat Get You Arrested? (FindLaw's Blotter) Juvenile Crime (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Can I Sue for a Heatstroke Injury?

Heatstroke is one of the more common causes for injuries over the summer. It occurs when a person's body temperature rises above 104 degrees due to sun/heat exposure. A person suffering from heatstroke requires immediate medical care. If left untreated, it can damage a person's brain, heart, kidneys, and muscles. Fortunately, individuals can usually prevent heatstroke by finding ways to cool down before it's too late, such as finding some shade, hydrating, even jumping in a pool, or just taking a shower. However, it is not always possible to prevent heatstroke, and sometimes, another person, or business entity, could even be liable for it. Below, you'll find three examples of when a person might be able to sue due to a heatstroke injury. 1. Employees Without Climate Control In the employment context, employers are required to maintain safe working conditions for their employees. In non-climate control environments, this requires ensuring employees have sun protection, the ability to stay hydrated, and are able to get relief from the heat. Even when an employer makes every effort to prevent employees from suffering a heatstroke, if it happens on the job, the employee will likely be able to qualify for workers' compensation. 2. Kids and Supervision When children play outdoors during the summertime, generally, whoever is supervising the children could potentially be liable if a child is injured due to overheating in the sun. This is due to the fact that preventing it is as easy as making sure kids drink water and don't stay in the sun too long. During heat waves, schools will often hold recess indoors to mitigate this risk. Day care facilities, after school programs, recreational sports coaches, schools, and even individual babysitters and other parents can be held liable if a child in their care is injured. 3. Outdoor Activities and Events Businesses and event organizers can also face liability to individuals that suffer heatstroke at their events or on their premises. Generally, if there are outdoor features, or it is an outdoor event or business, consumer safety is important. Events need to make sure that there are heat relief areas that can help cool people down and help people hydrate. Businesses need to be cautious with outdoor activities and ensure they monitor, or minimally warn, consumers for heat injury. Related Resources: Find Personal Injury Lawyers in Your Area (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How to Avoid Heat Stroke: Elderly at Risk With Temperatures Soaring (FindLaw's Common Law) Fan Sues Dallas Cowboys for Burned Butt (FindLaw's Injured) NYC Inmate 'Baked to Death' in Hot Jail Cell: Report (FindLaw's Injured)
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Here’s the Latest on Trump Immigration Reform Efforts

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. 1. Trump's Travel Ban Headed to Supreme Court Perhaps Trump's most infamous executive order on immigration, and certainly his most litigated one, is the attempted ban on immigrants and refugees from several majority Muslim countries. Blocked by federal circuit courts, rewritten, then blocked again, the Muslim ban is now in the hands of the Supreme Court, although many of the main legal issues may be moot by the time the Court hears oral arguments. 2. 3 Important Facts About Sanctuary Cities for Immigrants and Opponents Trump has also threatened to withhold federal funds from so-called sanctuary jurisdictions -- cities and states that decline to cooperate with federal immigration enforcement. It's a legally touchy subject, since immigration is largely a federal matter and there are constitutional protections against federal departments controlling state and local law enforcement, and many of those jurisdictions have sued in response. 3. How Would a 'Merit-Based' System Change Immigration? While battling illegal immigration, Trump also wants to shift the focus of legal immigration from birthplace and family considerations to employment and education qualifications. The president-supported RAISE Act would also slash the number of refugees and visa applicants allowed into the country every year. 4. Mixed Immigration Messages? Trump Administration's Latest on DAPA, Dreamers Trump rescinded Barack Obama's Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents, or DAPA, last June. But the new president has yet to decide on the old president's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, DACA, leaving many apprehensive about their immigration status. 5. Can Undocumented Immigrants Attend Public School? In the meantime, immigrants must go on with their daily lives even though their legal status is uncertain. The Supreme Court has said that public schools can't bar undocumented immigrant children from K-12 education, or charge them extra to attend. If you're unsure about your immigration status or need legal help, contact an experienced immigration attorney in your area. Related Resources: Find Immigration Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Top 7 Immigration Laws for Families (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Trump's Executive Order on Immigration: What Does It Mean When a Judge Issues a 'Stay'? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Power Does the President Have Over Deportation Policy? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Daycare Owners Sued for Hiring Negligence After Child’s Death

"As parents, we trust that our children are safe while they are under the supervision of organizations like Community Nursery & Preschool, and that those individuals taking care of our children are responsible, qualified, and professional care providers. When organizations and individuals betray that trust, the consequences can be tragic and heart-breaking." That sounds like some of the openings we've had to write in response to children being injured or killed while at daycare. In fact they're the words of David S. Cain Jr., an attorney representing the family of 5-year-old Kamden Johnson, whose body discovered in the driveway in Mobile, Alabama last week. The family is suing the daycare Kamden was supposed to be attending on the day he was found, claiming the company was negligent in screening and hiring Valarie Rena Patterson, who has also been charged with multiple crimes relating to the boy's death.An Avoidable Tragedy Though all the details are not yet known, it sounds like Kamden was another tragic victim of being left in a hot van for too long. Kenya Anderson, the Director of the Community Nursery & Preschool Academy, told AL.com that Patterson was in charge of shuttling children between daycare facilities. Kamden was a passenger in the morning, but Patterson allegedly told Anderson she didn't pick him up for the afternoon rounds. Anderson, along with Community Church Ministries, Inc. and owners Carl and Angela Coker, are named in the lawsuit, which claims the daycare failed to conduct a background check on Patterson before her hiring. A Knowable Past According to law enforcement, that background check would've been revealing. AoL.com reports: Mobile County jail records show Patterson's arrest history dating back to November 1991 for three counts of second-degree theft of property charges, two counts of first-degree theft of property, two counts of third-degree theft of property, no driver's license and failure to appear in court charges. She was arrested a second time in August 1999 in Florida on first-degree theft of property, giving a false name to police and fugitive from justice charges. Court documents show that Patterson used an alias name of Valarie Hardy during that arrest. She was arrested a third time in October of 2007 on a fugitive from justice charge. In this case, Patterson has been charged with corpse abuse and manslaughter. Whether the Community Church daycare performed its due diligence in hiring Patterson may be a question left to another jury. Related Resources: Find Wrongful Death Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Child Injured at Day Care: Should You Call a Lawyer? (FindLaw's Injured) 3 Most Common Injuries in Daycare (FindLaw's Injured) Signs of Daycare Abuse (FindLaw's Injured)
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Tips for Handling a Child Care Notice of Action

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. Don't Panic Subsidy programs may be complicated, with overlapping rules, regulations, and requirements, all of which seem like they can change at any moment. Many parents can become overwhelmed by the bureaucracy of it all, or get lost in a program's details. Just know that a Notice of Action doesn't necessarily mean the end of your child care subsidy, and that you can navigate the subsidy process. Do Appeal You have the right to appeal any change in your child care services. But beware -- the time is short. In most cases, you will only have 14 days to file an appeal, and must do so through a local agency, either a child care provider or a city or county entity. There are generally two levels to the appeals process: a hearing at your local agency, or a letter to the state department of education. Contact information for your local agency to request a hearing can be found on the Notice of Action. Don't Ignore It Not all changes to the child care subsidy require a Notice of Action, so even if you didn't receive a notice, your subsidy could change. If you didn't receive a Notice of Action -- if you were notified regarding a change in your subsidy by phone, for instance -- you can request a notice. Don't wait on a formal document, or think that because you didn't get a notice, your subsidy can't change. Be proactive in the appeals process. Do Seek Help If you have questions about the subsidy appeals process or want help appealing a change to your child care subsidy, there are organizations that can help. And you may want to contact an experienced family law attorney as well. Related Resources: Find Family Law Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Power of Attorney for Child Care (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Be Tax Savvy! Deduct Daycare Expenses (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Legal Tips for Choosing a New Daycare (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Fair Housing Act Protects LGBT Couples

The Fair Housing Act, passed as part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968, protects renters and home buyers from a variety of discrimination based on everything from sex, race, and national origin to religion, marriage status, and pregnancy. But until Wednesday of this week, no court had extended those protections to include lesbian, gay, or transgender people. That all changed when a federal court in Denver ruled that sex discrimination under the Fair Housing Act includes discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation, including discrimination motivated by outdated stereotypes about how men and women should act and with whom they should romantically partner. Judicial Protection Rachel Smith, a transgender woman, and her wife Tonya Smith attempted to rent a townhouse for themselves and their two children in Boulder, Colorado, but were denied, according to their lawsuit, because the landlord did not approve of their "unique relationship." In a ruling their lawyer believes is the first of its kind, the court found that LGBT renters are protected from such discrimination under federal law. "This is the first case under the Fair Housing Act dealing with gender identity where there's been liability found for discrimination based on stereotypes," Omar Gonzalez-Pagan told the Washington Post. "It demonstrates the importance of bringing these cases. Housing discrimination is a significant unreported problem" for LGBT people. Judicial Reasoning The district court's ruling mirrored one issued a day earlier by the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago. There, the court ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employment discrimination based on sexual orientation. Both courts found that sexual stereotyping is a form of sex discrimination, and therefore illegal under federal statutes that bar discrimination based on "sex." In doing so, the courts relied on a 1989 Supreme Court case holding that male partners and managers discriminated against a female employee when they said she needed to "walk more femininely, talk more femininely, dress more femininely, wear make-up, have her hair styled, and wear jewelry" in order to advance. In the Smith's case, U.S. District Judge Raymond P. Moore wrote, "Such stereotypical norms are no different from other stereotypes associated with women, such as the way she should dress or act (e.g., that a woman should not be overly aggressive, or should not act macho), and are products of sex stereotyping." Such sexual stereotyping is illegal under federal law, and therefore the landlord's refusal to rent to the Smith's based on their relationship violated the Fair Housing Act. Related Resources: Find Landlord-Tenant Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Can Landlords Discriminate Against Unmarried Couples? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Housing Discrimination for LGBT Couples (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Understanding Your Rights: Housing Discrimination (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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Can a Child Decide to Live With the Noncustodial Parent?

Child custody disputes and court cases can be fraught with emotions. When one parent is granted physical custody by the court, or via an agreement, children sometimes express their desire to live with their other parent. Despite the obvious emotional challenge to the current custodial parent, there are a few potential legal obstacles that must be overcome. Depending on several factors, and your state’s laws, a child’s opinion may or may not matter when it comes to where they want to live. Typically, in addition to the noncustodial parent’s willingness to take on physical custody, the age and maturity level of a child will be taken into consideration.Apart from these initial considerations, a court will base the decision on what is in the best interest of the child. However, if there is no child custody agreement, nor child custody court order, depending on your state laws, so long as the parents are in agreement, a child can live with whichever parent they choose without the court’s interference. A Child’s Wishes Although children may be able to clearly state their desire to live with the noncustodial parent, courts generally will give this little weight unless the child appears to be mature enough to make the decision. In some states, all custody determinations require a court to conduct a best interests analysis. As such, a child’s desire may not convince the court that a change in custody will serve the child’s best interests. Courts frequently must be attuned to a teen that is just trying to live with the more lenient, “cool” parent. One issue courts are frequently tasked with identifying, particularly when younger children express a desire to live with the noncustodial parent, is custodial interference. Unfortunately, it is not too uncommon for a noncustodial parent to attempt to convince their child during visitation that the child should say they want to live with them.While there may be a tiny ethical grey area here, if a noncustodial parent provides any sort of incentive, it will likely run afoul of the laws that protect against custodial interference. Related Resources: Facing a custody dispute? Get a free case review now. (Consumer Injury - Family) How Child Custody Decisions Are Made (FindLaw’s Learn About the Law) Can You Get Emancipated From Only One Parent? (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Child Custody Over the Summer: Dos and Don’ts (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
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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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