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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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Don’t Be a Victim in Your Divorce: 5 Empowering Legal Tips

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

Just like not being tardy for the party, taxpayers shouldn't be filing their taxes late because latecomers are subject to penalties. These penalties are monetary and fall under either the "failure to file" or "failure to pay" category, or both, the IRS says. Here's what you need to know about late filing and payment penalties: Failure-to-File Penalties According to the IRS, failure-to-file penalties are usually more than failure-to-pay penalties. The total late-filing penalty is typically 5 percent of the tax owed for each month or part of the month that your return is late. The IRS can charge you this late-filing penalty for up to five months or up to 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. If you're late to file by more than 60 days after the due date (or extended due date), then the minimum penalty is either $135 or 100 percent of the unpaid tax. Failure-to-Pay Penalties For people who fail to pay the full amount owed by the due date, they're penalized by having to pay 0.5 percent of the tax owed each month or part of a month that the tax remains unpaid. Like the failure-to-file penalty, the maximum is 25 percent of your unpaid taxes. On the other hand, if you request an extension before the filing deadline and have paid at least 90 percent of your actual tax liability before April 15, then you won't be subject to any failure-to-pay penalties -- unless you don't pay the remaining balance by the extended due date. Avoiding Penalties The IRS exercises some leniency and won't make you pay the penalties if you can show that your failure to file or pay on time was based on a reasonable cause and not just plain neglect or laziness. If you foresee trouble paying the full amount due on time, consider negotiating an installment agreement with the IRS to pay off back taxes. To avoid these penalties, be sure to either get an extension to file or estimate the amount of taxes you owe and pay by the deadline. Even if you accidently overpay, the IRS will credit your overpayment. If you need more help, contact an experienced tax attorney in your area to figure out your legal options. Related Resources: What Are The Penalties For Failing To File Your Tax Return On Time? (Forbes) Who Doesn't Have to File Income Taxes? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Running Late? Submit an Extension to File Taxes (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) 5 Weird Tax Deductions You May Be Able to Claim (FindLaw's Legally Weird)
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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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Anita Hill Documentary Opens Today: Where Is She Now?

"Anita," a new documentary directed by Academy Award-winner Freida Mock, traverses the story of Anita Hill. As you may recall, Anita Hill was a little-known law professor who took the nation by storm in 1991 when she alleged that then-U.S. Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas sexually harassed her. In 2010, with the 20th anniversary of the hearings approaching, she agreed to the documentary, deciding it was time "to revisit this, and for people to understand who I am," according to The New York Times. What Did Anita Hill Do? Anita Hill testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that Clarence Thomas had made graphic sexual statements and harassing advances as her supervisor at the U.S. Department of Education and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. The images alone of Hill testifying before the Senate Judiciary Committee are striking -- a young African American woman in a teal suit sitting before a row of 14 white men. The senators prodded Hill through awkward testimony about penis size, pubic hair and a pornographic film star known as Long Dong Silver. Ultimately, the committee determined a lack of evidence supported Hill's claims. Thomas was confirmed and he took a seat on the Court. But in Washington, Hill's testimony resonated. Shortly after, Congress passed a law allowing victims of sex discrimination to sue for damages. One year later, harassment complaints filed with the EEOC were up 50 percent and public opinion had shifted in Hill's favor. Private companies also started training programs to deter sexual harassment, Time reports. In addition, waves of women began seeking public office. In 1991, there were two female senators. Today there are 20, according to The New York Times. Though what truly transpired between Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas is still vigorously debated, her testimony played an important role in bringing national attention to the issue of sexual harassment in the workplace. Where Is Anita Hill Now? After returning to Oklahoma to her job as a faculty member at the Oklahoma School of Law, Hill endured a variety of threats: death, violence, sexual. Republican lawmakers in her home state tried to get her fired, but she was tenured, so then they went after her boss. They even tried to close the school, The Oakland Tribune reports. Eventually, Hill moved to Massachusetts, where she is still a professor of social policy, law and women's studies at Brandeis University. She has written two books, including one about the hearing and one in 2012 called "Reimagining Equality, Stories of Race, Gender and Finding Home." As Sheryl Gay Stolberg of The New York Times wrote, Anita Hill "has worked hard, she likes to say, to help women 'find their voices.' She has also found hers -- and she is not afraid to use it." The film opens in select theaters today. Related Resources: Snippets: Jersey Guns and Gambling, Anita Hill, Hurles Holdover (FindLaw's U.S. Supreme Court Blog) Clarence Thomas, Anita Hill and Sexual Harassment Decisions (FindLaw's U.S. Supreme Court Blog) How to Spot Sexual Harassment: 6 Facts (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 7 Tips to Prevent Sexual Harassment at Work (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
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5 Legal ‘Spring Cleaning’ Tips That Can Pay Off

Rejoice! The first day of spring is finally here. Besides tidying up your home or office, you may also want to consider some legal "spring cleaning" tasks as well. As seasons change and time moves on, so will your legal needs -- especially when it comes to updating your important legal documents. With that in mind, here are five legal spring cleaning tips that can potentially pay off: Update your estate plans. This spring might be a good time to update your will or trust -- or to finally draft those documents, if you've been putting it off. If you've recently moved, gotten married or divorced, welcomed a new child into your home, or just won the lottery, you may need to revise your will and other documents to make sure they reflect your current situation. Check your credit report. Are you a diligent bill payer or someone who's forgotten a couple payments? Regardless of your bill-paying habits, part of your legal spring cleaning routine should involve checking your credit report. Federal law requires three national credit-reporting agencies to provide consumers with a free copy of their credit report every 12 months, so why not take advantage of it? It's an especially good idea now, considering all the credit- and debit-card data that's been compromised as of late. Take another look at your lease. What does your lease say about getting your security deposit back? You'll want to review that, as it's one of the most common reasons for landlord-tenant disputes. Also, if you discovered issues like a leaky faucet during your spring cleaning, check your lease to see if your landlord is responsible for fixing it. Learn more about hiring home-improvement contractors. Fixing up your home may be part of your spring cleaning plan, but make sure your agreement with a home improvement contractor is solid. At the most basic level, a well-drafted construction contract will clearly state when work will start and finish, the price to be paid, and the terms and conditions of payment. However, home improvement projects usually involve tinkering around essential structures of your house, so your contract should address various foreseeable risks between the parties in case there's any serious damage done. Talk to a tax attorney. If your personal income tax situation is complicated, or if you've received a letter or notification from the IRS that something's amiss, then an important part of your legal spring cleaning plan should be to speak with a tax attorney. An experienced tax attorney can pinpoint any potential problems and help you sift through the thousand-plus pages of IRS code to make sure you're getting all the deductions you're eligible for. Of course these are just a few common legal issues that may need attention, and every person's situation is unique. If you're ready to spring into your legal "spring cleaning," check out FindLaw's Legal Planning homepage for more ideas that can pay off. Related Resources: Top 5 Reasons to Hire a Tax Lawyer (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) 5 Legal Issues You Can Plan Ahead For (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Should You Scrap Your Will and Start Over? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) How Many Trustees Can a Trust Have? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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What to Do If Ex-Spouse Won’t Pay Support?

If your ex-spouse won't pay child or spousal support, what can you do? There are many reasons people fall behind on support payments. It's possible that the paying spouse is financially unable to make the payments because he or she lost a job or experienced a reduction in income due to illness or injury. It's also possible the paying spouse simply doesn't want to make the payments, perhaps out of spite. Either way, the ultimate question is the same: If an ex-spouse won't (or can't) pay spousal or child support, what are your options? While each case is unique, here are three possible courses of action to consider: Enter into a private agreement. If your former spouse genuinely cannot afford to make support payments at this time -- for example, because of unemployment, illness, or injury -- your best option might be to work out a private agreement which suspends or reduces the support payment amount and/or adjusts the frequency of payments until your ex gets back on his or her feet. That being said, remind your ex-spouse that you will go to court if he or she does not resume making payments. It's a good idea to have your family law attorney draft the agreement to make sure all of your legal bases are covered. Try mediation. If you need a more formal setting to openly communicate and reach an agreement, mediation might be a good option for you and your ex. Couples often use mediation to resolve child support and spousal support issues because it's less adversarial and more cost-effective than going to court. Mediation also gives you and your ex greater flexibility and more options than court-ordered remedies. Go to court. If your ex-spouse is simply trying to avoid the obligation to pay support or refuses to pay despite your agreement, another option is to lawyer up and return to court for a contempt proceeding. A court can help figure out the most effective way to enforce child support and spousal support orders, such as wage garnishment. For more detailed information on your potential options, check out The FindLaw Guide to Getting Child Support Payments and The FindLaw Guide to Spousal Support. Related Resources: Spousal Support and Taxes: 3 Reminders (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Potential Ways to Reduce Spousal Support (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Does Child Support End Upon Graduation? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Ask a Question About Marriage and Divorce in Our Community Forum (FindLaw Answers)
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