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Family Law

Tips for Students to Help Prevent School Shootings

It unfortunately seems that the frequency of school shootings has increased. Just yesterday, at least 17 people were killed during a school shooting in Florida. Every time there's a school shooting, the debate on gun control comes to the forefront of the news. While this is a valid debate, it seems that more is at play than just preventing people from being able to buy guns. There may be things that parents, staff members at school, and other students can do to help prevent these tragedies in the future. Can Anything Be Done to Prevent School Shootings? A school shooting can't always be prevented, especially if the shooter doesn't exhibit any signs of violent tendencies or indication that he or she is planning a school shooting. However, there are signs sometimes that someone is planning something, and if you notice such signs, it's a good idea to pay attention to these signs and take them seriously. This is true for parents, school staff, and students. For example, the suspect in the Florida school shooting -- Nikolas Cruz -- was described by students and neighbors as a troubled teen.Tips for StudentsTo help prevent school shootings, students should:Know the warning signs of a mass shooting.Alert a teacher, parent, of law enforcement officer as soon as you become aware of a threat.Understand that "reporting" is not the same as "snitching" because the goal of reporting a crime is to protect students, while the goal of snitching is to get someone in trouble.Remember that you can be charged with failure to report a crime if you know about a threat and don't do anything. Students can be especially helpful since they spend more time around each other than they do with school staff, and usually have access to classmates' social media accounts. In the case of the Cruz, the Associated Press reports that he threatened and harassed peers and has disturbing photos on social media. Parents Can Be Liable It's often not clear what leads a person to commit a school shooting. It could be the home environment or being bullied at school or mental illness, or a combination of all of these things. While people often have the knee-jerk reaction of blaming parents for such tragedies, it's not necessarily their fault.But it's important to note that there are times that parents can be held accountable for school violence committed by their child. One prime example is if parents are careless with their firearms and their child uses the firearm in a school shooting. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Suspect in Florida school massacre charged with 17 murders (Reuters) Weapons at School (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Do You Have to Report a Crime If You See One? (FindLaw's Blotter)
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Student Loan Forgiveness Options May Disappear Under New Budget Plan

Higher education is important to many people, but it doesn't come cheap. In order to get a college or graduate degree, many people need student loans. Of course, the hope is that once you receive a degree, you'll be able to get a job, and repay your student loans.However, this isn't as easy as it theoretically seems. For this reason, there are various repayment options for people who take out student loans. But, under President Trump's new spending plan proposal, there are many changes to repayment options for those who owe money for federal student loans. What Would Be Changing? The budget plan, as currently written, would do away with the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program and curtail income-based loan repayment plans. The plan would also cut funding for federal work study in half, and embolden the government to go after students who aren't paying their loans. These changes to student loans would apply to those students who borrow after July 1, 2019, and would not include loans provided to borrowers to finish their current education. In regard to income-driven repayment plans, they would be reduced from four options to one option. Under the one option, a student's monthly payment wouldn't be more than 12.5% of his or her discretionary income. One positive aspect of the income-driven repayment plan under the new budget is that undergraduate students would have their loan forgiven after 15 years. For reference, these types of loans are currently forgiven after 20 years. What Happens If You Can Repay Your Student Loans? There are some options for those who can't pay back their student loans, and those options will vary depending on whether you have private or public loans. Under the new budget plan, people who fall into delinquency repaying their federal loans would be subject to more stringent enforcement. More specifically, the new budget plan calls to "streamline the Department of Education's ability to verify applicants' income data held by the Internal Revenue Service." If you're concerned about repaying your student loans, or want to find out about your repayment options, it may be a good idea to speak with a local attorney. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Higher Education (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Pennsylvania Attorney General Sues Nation's Largest Student Loan Servicer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Non-Dischargeable vs. Dischargeable Debt in Bankruptcy (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Tips for Talking to a Lawyer on the Phone

Almost everyone knows that you have a right to counsel if you've been charged with a crime. People will also be inclined to seek out a lawyer if they want to file a lawsuit, or if they're being sued. But, there are many other instances where a lawyer can be very helpful.For example, it's usually a good idea to consult with a lawyer while planning your estate because he or she can ensure that your estate plan is in compliance with your state's laws, and can advise you on how to reduce your estate taxes. But, how do you decide when to call an attorney? And how do you decide if the attorney you call is right for you? These are valid and important questions to ask yourself when you're thinking about hiring an attorney. Read on for some tips for talking to a lawyer on the phone. How Do I Find a Lawyer? If you have friends or family who have already used a lawyer (that they were happy with) in a similar legal matter, it's a good idea to ask them for the lawyer's contact information. But, maybe you don't feel comfortable asking someone you know for a lawyer recommendation because you want to keep your legal matter private. While recommendations are helpful, there are other ways to find a lawyer, including researching the attorney online. You can read reviews and it's also a good idea to research a lawyer's discipline record. The First Call Whether you found a lawyer through a recommendation or you found one through your own research, the first call can be very important. For this reason, it's important to be prepared for this conversation.First, you should have a list of questions ready to ask the lawyer, including questions about his or hers experience with legal matters such as yours. Second, you should have a fairly detailed summary of the legal matter that you're seeking counsel for. If you have any documentation related to your legal matter (such as a complaint you've been served), it's a good idea to have those documents in front of you.Finally, talking to a lawyer on the phone will help you to also get a feel for his or her personality, including the lawyer's ability to explain things clearly. Just remember that the initial conversation with a lawyer is not only the time for the lawyer to decide whether he or she wants to take the case, but also for you to decide if you want that particular lawyer for your legal issue. Related Resources: Find an Attorney Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Guide to Hiring a Lawyer (FindLaws' Learn About the Law) Should I Have an Annual Legal Checkup With a Lawyer (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 5 Reasons to Hire an Attorney Decades Before You Retire (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Should You Add Bitcoin to Your Estate Plan?

Even though many people may feel uncomfortable planning for death, it's an important thing to do, especially for your loved ones. In the absence of an estate plan, property will be divided based on state intestacy laws, which could result in your assets going to people you don't want them to go to, and it can be a hassle for your loved ones.Assuming that you've decided to plan your estate, you may wonder what you should include. Well, the more detailed you have, the better. And, if your property changes -- maybe you added new investments, such as Bitcoin -- it's best to add that to your estate plan as well. It's All in the Details Probate issues can easily become overly complicated because family members often end up fighting with each other over their deceased relative's assets. To avoid this, it's important to be as detailed as possible in your estate plan, both in listing beneficiaries for particular items or sums of money, and making sure to list all of your assets. This includes any investments, such as real property, stocks, or Bitcoin. When it comes to Bitcoin, or other types of cryptocurrency, it's important to be a little more detailed than you may be with other property. For example, when you have an investment account at a bank, it'll list the particular stocks you have in your portfolio and will usually allow you to designate a beneficiary. The nature of cryptocurrencies is secretive, so it can be much more difficult to get access to it once the investor dies. For this reason, it's important to not only list that you own Bitcoin, but also list where it was bought and how it can be accessed. Show You Care It's hard enough to grieve the death of someone you love, but also trying to sort through his or her assets, and possibly deal with greedy relatives, can make it unbearable. So, show your loved ones you care about them by planning your estate, or updating your estate to include any new assets. And, if you don't know where to start or need professional help to plan your estate, you can contact a local attorney who can guide you through the estate planning process and make sure you have a solid estate plan. Related Resources: Find an Estate Planning Lawyer Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Estate Planning (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Digital Estate Planning: How to Prepare Digital Accounts for the End of Life (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Bitcoin and Estate Planning: Top FAQs (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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How Does Immigration Status Affect Child Custody?

Divorce is hard enough for anyone to go through, but add having to determine child custody, and it only gets harder. Sometimes parents are able to reach a custody agreement themselves, other times the parents may need to have a judge decide on the child custody arrangements.If you're an immigrant -- legal or illegal -- you may be concerned that your immigration status will impact a child custody agreement. After all, doesn't it seem likely that a U.S. citizen would be favored over a non-citizen when determining who gets custody? The answer is no -- immigration status is not generally a factor in determining who gets custody. How Is Child Custody Determined? Like most legal family matters, child custody is governed by state laws. There are, however, some generally accepted factors in determining child custody. The main factor in determining child custody is considering what's in the "best interests" of the child. This involves many considerations including looking at the mental and physical health of the parents, need for continuation of a stable home environment, and the wishes of the child (when he or she is old enough to capably make this decision). While the list of considerations for child custody is long, notably absent is immigration status. This is even true in the case of illegal immigrants fighting for child custody. While it may not be a factor in determining child custody, it bears mentioning that a pending deportation or an actual deportation can affect child custody, since it would impact the child's life.So, while a parent's immigration status doesn't directly factor into deciding who gets custody, there could be indirect effects, particularly if the parent is an illegal immigrant. To resolve child custody issues, contact a child custody lawyer or an immigration lawyer for help. Related Resources: Find Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) How the Gig Economy Is Affecting Child Support (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) 2017: The Year in Immigration Law (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Deportation Dispute: U.S. Refusing Visas for Countries Unwilling to Take Back Deported Citizens (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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Ohio Lethal Injection Execution Method Ruled Constitutional

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit has upheld the constitutionality of Ohio's lethal injection protocol. In a unanimous ruling, a three judge panel upheld the district court's previous decision denying death-row inmates Raymond Tibbetts and Alva Campbell their request to enjoin their pending executions. It's the latest case in a string of stories concerning the state's method of execution. Ohio's Death Penalty Drama The Buckeye State's execution protocol has been a recurring news item. In November 2017, the state's attempted execution of Alva Campbell (one of the plaintiffs here) was cancelled when prison officials couldn't find a vein to inject the lethal mixture of drugs. Campbell was sentenced to death in 1998 after killing 18-year-old Charles Dials during a jail break attempt. Campbell's legal team has also requested execution by firing squad on numerous occasions, a request that state officials are (extremely) unlikely to grant. According to the state's current execution schedule, Raymond Tibbets's execution will occur next week, on February 13th, 2018. That's a date subject to change, however, as eleventh hour postponements are common. Tibbetts was sentenced to death for the brutal murder of his wife and landlord in 1997. Death Penalty and the Law State death penalty cases are among the most heavily-litigated cases. Trials commonly take years, appeals generally go through state and federal courts for decades, and last minute stay requests or clemency petitions are common. Challenges to the method of execution as violating the Eighth Amendment's Cruel and Unusual Punishments Clause have been common in recent years. An approaching execution is a common time for reigniting America's long-running debate over the wisdom -- and constitutionality -- of capital punishment. Related Resources In re Ohio Execution Protocol Litigation (FindLaw's Cases and Codes) Appeals Court Say Ohio Lethal Injection Execution Method Constitutional (Cleveland.com) Ohio May Give Botched Execution Another Try (FindLaw's Blotter)
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When Is It Illegal for a Nursing Home to Evict Residents?

There are broad legal protections for nursing home residents. Federal and state laws prevent nursing homes from arbitrarily evicting patients, a process called 'involuntary discharge.' Yet complaints about wrongful nursing home evictions are rising. It's a problem that wraps up the care needs of resident patients with the difficult realities of running a nursing home. Prohibited Nursing Home Evictions Federal law protects against abusive nursing home practices, including unjustly evicting sick patients. Often complaints center on homes making room for more desirable (paying) patients, which is prohibited under law but affects a home's bottom line. Nursing homes are required to ensure that discharged patients have someplace to go as well. These federal requirements are tied to a nursing home's receipt of Medicare and Medicaid certification and funds -- which are important to the industry's credibility and business viability. Federal enforcement of violations is out there. Many states have similar legal protections and enforcement agencies. Protecting Nursing Home Rights While legal protections exist, it's important to understand their limits. Nursing homes can involuntarily discharge patients in specific situations. Patients whose needs can't be met or whose presence poses risks to other patients can be discharged. Failure to pay is another reason. It's not uncommon for patients to come in on Medicare only for their benefits to run out. When that happens, costs aren't covered and eviction becomes possible. Wrongful Evictions: What to Do? You and your loved ones have rights against wrongful eviction from a nursing home. You can file a complaint with a federal or state regulatory agency, or else contact a local elder law attorney for help. Related Resources Find Elder Law Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Nursing Home Residents: 5 Legal Rights (FindLaw's Law & Daily Life Blog) Protecting Nursing Home Residents from Eviction (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) As Nursing Homes Evict Patients, States Question Motives (NPR)
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Accused of Domestic Violence: What to Do

Domestic violence doesn't discriminate -- it can occur in rich homes and poor homes, and can affect people of any race. While domestic violence laws vary from state to state, it's usually classified as a serious crime in all jurisdictions. Unfortunately, sometimes someone may accuse his or her partner of domestic violence even though it's not true. A person may do this out of spite or to gain the upper hand in a divorce. However, even if the domestic violence charges are dismissed, just being accused of domestic violence can have a negative impact on your life. How Can Being Accused of Domestic Violence Affect You? There are various ways that an accusation that you have committed domestic violence can affect you. First, an accusation alone can ruin your reputation, which in turn can negatively impact your personal and professional life. If your partner reports it to the police, it can result in criminal charges, even if your partner recants.Your partner has other recourse under the law as well, such as filing a civil lawsuit. If you're involved in a divorce or legal separation, a domestic violence accusation can also affect child custody decisions. Finally, even though not everyone wants to own a gun, a domestic violence offender (if convicted or if the alleged victim has a restraining order) is prohibited from buying a gun under federal law.What to Do to Protect YourselfEvery person's situation is different, but there are some general things you can to do protect yourself if you are being accused -- especially if the accusations are completely false. First, don't say anything that may be used against you in court, and don't escalate the situation.Then, contact your family to let them know of the situation. It's possible your accuser could try to turn your family against you. If the accusations are false, you should get out ahead of them so that your family doesn't turn against you.Also, you should consider protecting your valuables and changing your passwords. This will help prevent your accuser from substantiating false claims. For example, an accuser could send threatening text messages or emails from your device in an attempt to establish evidence of your abuse. Don't let this happen.Most importantly, you should talk to a legal professional.Seeking Legal Help Considering the consequences of being convicted or even accused of domestic violence, the best course of action is to contact an attorney near you to discuss the circumstances of your case and come up with the best defense.Even if the police have not gotten involved yet, you may want to contact a legal professional if someone has threatened to accuse you of domestic violence. A legal professional can help you understand your situation and may even be able to mitigate your domestic disputes before they become more serious. Related Resources: Find Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Domestic Violence (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Can a Domestic Violence Conviction Be Expunged From Your Record? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can I Still Own a Gun After a Domestic Violence Conviction? (FindLaw's Blotter) Top 5 Domestic Violence Questions (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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How the Gig Economy Is Impacting Child Support

Each state has its own formula to determine what amount of child support the noncustodial parent will pay. But, even when an amount is determined, it's not always easy actually getting child support payments. Sometimes the parent may feel that the money is going to his or her ex-spouse and not actually to the child. Other times, a parent may have a new family and feel that he or she can't afford to make child support payments and support the new family.Regardless of the reason, a parent is obligated to pay child support, and if he or she doesn't pay, there are ways to force payment. However, forcing someone to pay child support has become increasingly difficult with the new gig economy, where people are working in temporary positions as independent contractors. Why Would the Gig Economy Affect Child Support? If a noncustodial parent doesn't pay child support, there are a few options for enforcing the payment of child support. One option is wage garnishment, which is when a portion of a person's wages are withheld by the employer and sent to the agency in charge of enforcing child support. While this seems simple in theory, it's not always easy to implement in reality.It has become harder to collect child support in the gig economy because the income from "gig" positions aren't always disclosed or easy to uncover. Thus, there isn't a true accounting for the parent's income. In addition, certain employers may not feel obligated to deal with garnishing wages for workers who are independent contractors and not regular employees.Making Child Support Payments It's important to make child support payments -- both legally and for the well-being of your child. Whether you're finding it difficult to make child support payments, or you're having a hard time getting child support payments, an attorney can help you. Related Resources: Find Child Support Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Child Support (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) How Is Post-Secondary Child Support Determined? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Common Myths About Child Custody Disputes (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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