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9/11 Crash Site Undervalued in Eminent Domain Case

The 9/11 crash site of United Flight 93 is actually worth nearly $1 million more than the federal government paid for it, according to a court ruling in an eminent domain case. A federal district judge ruled Wednesday that the site of the downed flight near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, originally valued at $610,000, was actually worth more than $1.5 million, reports the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. The federal government scooped up the land from its owner in 2009 under eminent domain, with plans to create a national memorial at the site. But both the original owner and the feds disputed how much it was worth. Flight 93's Final Resting Place On September 11, 2001, United Flight 93 was one of four hijacked aircraft which crashed as part of a terrorist plot. Flight 93 was unique in that it missed its intended target and instead landed in a rural area of Pennsylvania, after a movie-inspiring passenger intervention. The plane's final resting place was in a field originally owned by Michael Svonavec, but the U.S. government took possession of the site in 2009 under the doctrine of eminent domain. Taking land through eminent domain requires that the government take the land for "public use" and compensate the land's owner for its fair market value. Owners have the right to challenge eminent domain actions, and typically the argument boils down to how much the land is actually worth compared to the government's compensation. In Svonavec's case, he believes his land is worth "at least $5.7 million," reports the Tribune-Review. Under this estimation, the federal government would owe Svonavec more than $5 million, but a federal judge decided differently. Commission Made Correct Valuation The "fair market value" of a piece of land with a unique character -- like historical value -- can often be difficult to pinpoint. Typically the government would approximate the land's value based on its size and comparable sales of land in the surrounding area. Perhaps this is how the government came to its original $610,000 figure to compensate Svonavec for the Flight 93 crash site. However, a court-appointed commission in December valued the property at $1,535,000 -- a finding which a federal judge upheld on Wednesday. Part of its valuation included the property's "national significance and intrinsic value," which made it unique from similar parcels of land, reports the Tribune-Review. Svonavec may be upset that he didn't get the $5 million he requested for the 9/11 crash site, but it's more than double what he originally received. Related Resources: Flight 93 memorial site correctly valued at $1.5m, judge rules (Metro) Find an Eminent Domain Lawyer in Your Area (FindLaw) Can I Lose my Property to Eminent Domain? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can Eminent Domain Actually Help My Business? (FindLaw's Free Enterprise)
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Facebook Password Lawsuit: School Settles for $70K

A Minnesota school has agreed to fork over $70,000 for demanding a sixth-grader reveal her Facebook password. Riley Stratton, now 15, painfully remembers when Minnewaska school officials cornered her over a Facebook post and threatened her with suspension, reports the Star Tribune. The confrontation ended with Stratton relinquishing her password, but thanks to the ACLU's intervention, its ultimate end was the school cutting a check. What were the legal reasons behind the school's Facebook password settlement? Right to Students' Facebook Passwords? According to an ACLU press release, the American Civil Liberties Union branch in Minnesota filed a lawsuit on Stratton's behalf in 2012 claiming that a number of her civil rights had been violated by the school demanding access to her Facebook account. The suit centered on the treatment of Stratton for conduct via Facebook performed outside of school, some of which was alleged to have been of "a sexual nature," reports the Star Tribune. Employers have been treading a legal line in asking for employees' Facebook passwords, but with the threat of cyberbullying, it seems all the more important in schools. Minnewaska Superintendent Greg Schmidt told the Star Tribune that the school just wanted "to make kids aware that their actions outside school can be detrimental." Wallace Hilke, the ACLU attorney for Stratton's case, believes that "[k]ids' use of social media is the family's business" -- not the school's. Stratton's school didn't admit any liability in the settlement, but there will be some changes in its Facebook policies. Settlement Order Promises Change Under the terms of the settlement, the Strattons agreed to drop their claims, as long as the school makes some changes regarding how it handles social media incidents. Minnewaska schools have agreed to: Require students to give up their passwords or account info to school administrators only when there is "reasonable suspicion" they will uncover a violation of school rules; Amend the student handbook to note that students are free to withhold consent to search backpacks or other items, including their Facebook accounts, without the threat of additional discipline; and Train faculty and staff on the policy changes. These changes may be a bit late for Stratton, but they may prevent other students from feeling unduly harassed by school officials about their Facebook passwords. Related Resources: ACLU wins settlement over student's Facebook post (The Associated Press) Can Schools Monitor Students on Social Media? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Asking for Passwords? You May Be Asking for Trouble (FindLaw's Free Enterprise) Daughter's Facebook 'SUCK IT' Post Nixes Dad's $80K Settlement (FindLaw's Decided)
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Top 10 Tips for Successful Co-Parenting

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