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Can the IRS Open a Safe Deposit Box?

Safe deposit boxes can provide individuals with confidence that important documents and valuable or prized possessions will be kept safe from loss, accidental destruction, and theft. However, courts do have the authority to issue an order requiring a bank to freeze, or open, a person’s safe deposit box. When it comes to collecting delinquent unpaid taxes, the IRS has quite a bit of leeway, but cannot act to seize assets without court approval, or other particular circumstances being met. In addition to freezing accounts, levying accounts, garnishing wages, and seizing assets, the IRS can get a court order to freeze and seize or force a sale of the contents of a safe deposit box to satisfy a tax debt or penalty. Nothing Is Safe From the IRS When it comes to collecting taxes, the law tends to favor the IRS, and provide them with mechanisms to force tax delinquents to pay. Not much is safe from the taxman. However, when a court order is issued to open or seize the contents of a safe deposit box, the order must specify exactly what is to be seized. If cash is stored in the safe deposit box, this can be seized directly. If valuable items are being stored, their value may be assessed, and strategically sold off to satisfy the debt. How Safe Is Your Safe Deposit Box? Unlike normal deposit, checking or savings accounts at a bank, safe deposit boxes are not FDIC insured (though you can purchase private insurance). Typically, a bank will not be able to open a safe deposit box without the consent of the customer, or a court order and a locksmith. Most safe deposit boxes are locked by two keys, one of which is kept by the bank, while the other is kept by the customer only. However, if a customer defaults on their safe deposit box rental agreement, a bank may be able to open the box and force a sale of the contents in order to recoup their losses. When this occurs, banks are expected to attempt to contact the box holder before the sale in order to notify them of a pending forced sale to give them an opportunity to pay the outstanding debts. After a sale occurs, banks are again required to attempt to contact the box holder to give them any proceeds from the sale that are in excess of the outstanding debts. Related Resources: Need help with your taxes? Get your tax issue reviewed by an attorney for free. (Consumer Injury) Safe Deposit Tips: What Goes in Safe Deposit and What Does Not (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Top 10 Tax Law Questions (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life) Top 6 Tips for Filing Taxes After Divorce (FindLaw’s Law and Daily Life)
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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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Supreme Court to Decide Which Bathroom Trans High School Student Can Use

Last week, the Supreme Court announced that they will be taking up the case of Gavin Grimm, the high school student who has been told he can't use the boys' restroom because he is transgender. The case will be heard at some point next year, as the Court has only accepted to hear the case at this point. When a case is appealed to the Supreme Court, one party to a case is asking the Court to review a Federal Appeals Court's decision. The Supreme Court is asked to review thousands of cases each year, and only selects about 80 to review. Although Gavin won the last appeal, the Supreme Court ordered that the appeals court's decision not go into effect until they decide to reject the case or after they decide the case. The Case of Gavin Grimm Gavin's case was forced upon him. When he started high school as a freshman, he initially used the unisex/single stall restroom in the nurse's office. However, it was the only single stall in the building and Gavin did not feel like he could solely use that restroom as it was the only one. When he requested that he be allowed to use the regular boys' bathroom, the school approved his request. However, when some other students' parents learned that Gavin was using the regular boys' bathroom, they petitioned the district to stop Gavin, and won. But Gavin didn't stop fighting for his rights as a transgender student. Gavin challenged the school district in court and on appeal, Gavin won. After the appeal, but before the Supreme Court announced that they would weigh in, the Department of Education, with the Department of Justice, issued formal guidance on how public schools should handle any policy relating to sex segregation and gender identity. Basically, both agencies state that Gavin, and other trans students, should be able to use the bathroom that conforms with their gender identity, regardless of how they are identified in legal documents. Trans Bathrooms: Separate Is Not Equal For the purposes of Title IX, which applies to schools that receive federal funding, a student's gender identity is their sex, and Title IX prohibits discrimination based on sex. Soon, the Supreme Court will weigh in and may provide some judicial certainty to this politically divisive question. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Transgender Bathroom Laws in Public Schools: A National Overview (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) California's Gender Neutral Bathroom Bill (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Primer for Parents and Students on Transgender Bathrooms in Schools (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Do I Need a Lawyer for a Gender Change? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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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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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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Is Road Rage a Crime?

We've probably all been guilty of road rage at least once in our lives. However, when road rage escalates from stewing in your car to aggressive driving or vicious assaults, road rage can get you arrested. Just this week, a case of road rage was caught on camera in Yuma, Arizona. A motorcyclist, wearing a GoPro camera on his helmet, allegedly cut off another car. When both the car and motorcycle were stopped at a light, the driver got out of his vehicle, walked straight up to the motorcyclist and punched him in the face! The driver proceeds to shove a passenger on the motorcycle and try to punch the motorcyclist several more times before being taken down. The driver was taken to the hospital with an apparent broken ankle, and has been charged with endangerment, threatening, and assault. Could he also have been charged with road rage? Road Rage Laws In most cases of road rage, a driver is often charged with a slew of violations and other crimes, such as speeding, unsafe lane changing, endangerment, or assault, as happened in this case. However, some states also have laws or vehicles codes punishing road rage: Arizona -- According to Arizona's Department of Public Safety, road rage is defined as "an assault with a motor vehicle or other dangerous weapon by the operator or passenger of another motor vehicle or an assault precipitated by an incident that occurred on a roadway." California -- California's Vehicle Code section 13210 allows for a court-ordered suspension of your driver's license if you are convicted of assault with a deadly weapon caused by road rage. Massachusetts -- If you have a junior operator's license in Massachusetts and you speed up in competition with another driver, you could be convicted of drag racing and be ordered to complete a court program against road rage. If you ever find yourself getting angry while driving, take a few deep breaths and calm down. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, road rage and aggressive driving cause 66 percent of traffic fatalities. In a seven year period, 218 people were murdered and 12,610 injured because of road rage. If you are charged with road rage or any other crime in conjunction, consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney for help. Related Resources: Browse Criminal Defense Lawyers by Location (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Video: Motorcyclist Attacked in Arizona Road Rage Incident (ABC 7) 'Road Rage Lady' in Viral Video Arrested, but for What? (FindLaw's Legally Weird) Road Rage Tips: How to Not Get Shot (FindLaw's Injured)
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Amid Controversy, Same-Sex Marriage Is Legal in Ala.

Alabama was the source of a good bit of controversy surrounding same-sex marriage last week, after a federal judge declared the state's law prohibiting same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Right after that, however, the Alabama Supreme Court's Chief Justice Roy Moore issued his own order telling state judges and employees not to recognize same-sex marriages or issue licenses. Moore's conflicting order led to questions about who trumps whom when it comes to federal trial courts and state supreme courts, but the U.S. Supreme Court put the issue to rest by refusing to review the case. What's going on down in Alabama? Same-Sex Marriage Is Constitutional -- Maybe On January 23, a federal trial judge in Alabama struck down Alabama's same-sex marriage ban as unconstitutional. The state refused to allow one of the women in the case to adopt the other woman's son because it didn't recognize their marriage as valid. Citing to recent same-sex marriage decisions, including the U.S. Supreme Court's 2013 ruling in U.S. v. Windsor, Judge Callie V.S. Granade concluded that Alabama's law violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution and ordered the state to no longer enforce the ban. Granade's order set the stage for Alabama to become the 37th state to permit same-sex marriage -- except that, on February 3, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore issued a memo to state probate court judges (who are in charge of marriages) indicating they weren't bound by the federal court decision, which Moore said was contrary to state law. On February 8, he ordered probate judges and state employees not to recognize same-sex marriages. Legal scholars tend to agree that Moore's opinion doesn't override a federal judge's opinion. Moore is no stranger to making controversial decisions. He was removed as chief justice in 2003 when he refused to obey a federal court order to remove a Ten Commandments monument from outside the courthouse, but Alabama voters returned him to office in 2012. The Supremes Decide Not to Weigh In The U.S. Supreme Court implicitly affirmed Granade's order on Monday, when it refused to grant an emergency petition by Alabama's attorney general to stay Granade's decision, which would have suspended the issuing of marriage licenses in the state. Justices Thomas and Scalia dissented, arguing that the state law should have been stayed to allow a federal appellate court to weigh in. The dissent also took time to criticize the Court's recent practice of not staying a federal appeals court's order when it finds a state law unconstitutional. With the U.S. Supreme Court out of the picture, Alabama counties began issuing marriage licenses -- well, most of them, anyway. According to The New York Times, some Alabama courts protested the decision by not conducting any marriages at all. Related Resources: Confusion in Alabama as Some Defy Court Order to Grant Gay Marriage Licenses (Los Angeles Times) Ark. and Miss. Gay Marriage Bans Struck Down (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Same-Sex Marriage Returns to Supreme Court: 3 Things You Should Know (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Gay Marriage Update: Kan., Mo., and 6th Circuit (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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