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Arizona Can’t Ban Mexican American Studies in Schools

Generally speaking, courts are fairly deferential to schools on educational matters, except possibly when it comes to race. And while the Supreme Court has major rulings on school desegregation and affirmative action, this might be the first time a federal court has taken up the issue of race in a school district's curriculum. Arizona had passed legislation prohibiting courses "designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," which targeted a decades-long, voluntary Mexican American Studies program for K-12 students in the Tucson Unified School District. But a federal judge ruled the ban was "enacted and enforced with a discriminatory purpose," and is therefore unconstitutional. Racial Animus Judging from local reporting on the ban, it became a personal issue. The Arizona Daily Star reports that Arizona's superintendent of public education at the time, Tom Horne, and former state senator, and Horne's successor John Huppenthal, had it out for the Mexican American Studies program for years, culminating in an alleged blog post comment by Huppenthal comparing the classes to Hitler's rise to power. In 2010, the Arizona Senate passed H.B. 2281, which prohibited a school district or charter school from including in its program of instruction any courses that: "Promote the overthrow of the United States government," "Promote resentment toward a race or class of people," "Are designed primarily for pupils of a particular ethnic group," or "Advocate ethnic solidarity instead of the treatment of pupils as individuals." Racial Motivations In a scathing opinion, Judge A. Wallace Tashima determined officials "were motivated by racial animus" and were pushing "discriminatory ends in order to make political gains." Tashima ruled that the ban violated students' First and Fourteenth Amendment rights by denying them the "right to receive information and ideas" and discrimination against Latinos, respectively. "Having thus ruled out any pedagogical motivation," Tashima wrote, "the Court is convinced that decisions regarding the MAS program were motivated by a desire to advance a political agenda by capitalizing on race-based fears." The court will hear arguments regarding what remedies to take in the coming weeks. Related Resources: Arizona Law Outlawing Mexican-American Studies Ruled Unconstitutional (AZ Central) Teachers: How to Talk to Students About Privilege, Legally (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) MN Students Sue School District Over Gay Policy (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Banned Books Week: Can Schools Ban Books? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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ACLU, Lambda Legal Sue Trump Over Transgender Military Ban

Over the course of three tweets last month, President Donald Trump expressed his intent to ban transgender people from serving in the military. The White House made that intent official on Friday, issuing a Presidential Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense and the Secretary of Homeland Security "prohibit[ing] openly transgender individuals from accession into the United States military and authoriz[ing] the discharge of such individuals. And it didn't take long for the lawsuits to follow. Both the ACLU and Lambda Legal have sued Donald Trump and his Secretary of Defense James Mattis, claiming the ban is unconstitutional and "compromises the safety and security of our country." Animus Trump's memo reverses Obama-era guidance allowing transgender individuals to openly serve in the military and allowing defense funds to cover sex-reassignment surgery. The ban would remain in place "until such time as a sufficient basis exists upon which to conclude that terminating that policy and practice would not have the negative effects discussed above." In the memo, Trumps says, "The Secretary of Defense ... may advise me at any time, in writing, that a change to this policy is warranted," but that recommendation for change must be something that "I find convincing." The ACLU claims there is no military basis for the ban: The Trump Administration has provided no evidence that this pronouncement was based on any analysis of the actual cost and disruption allegedly caused by allowing men and women who are transgender to serve openly. News reports indicate that the Secretary of Defense and other military officials were surprised by President Trump's announcement and that his actual motivations were purely political, reflecting a desire to accommodate legislators and advisers who bear animus and moral disapproval toward men and women who are transgender, with a goal of gaining votes for a spending bill that included money to build a border wall with Mexico. Amicus The claims may bear some truth. Mattis was reportedly caught off guard by Trump's tweets, and sources say he was "appalled." Lambda Legal's suit alleges "the Ban and the current accessions bar violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the Fifth Amendment and the free speech guarantee of the First Amendment," and "are unsupported by any compelling, important, or even rational justification." This is not the first time Trump has been sued over an executive order or memo -- there are now at least three lawsuits regarding the transgender military ban alone -- and will likely not be the last. Related Resources: Find Civil Rights Lawyers Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) Military Transgender Ban to Begin Within 6 Months, Memo Says (The New York Times) Transgender Service Members Sue Trump Over Military Ban Tweets (FindLaw's Courtside) Trump Administration Rescinds Guidance on Bathroom Use for Transgender Students (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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What Happens If You Falsify Divorce Documents?

You don't always have to tell the truth. And you generally can't be sued for little white lies, like telling your spouse you'd do the dishes without following through, or saying you're "just going out for some cigarettes." But court is one of those places where lying will get you into serious trouble. And even if you're not appearing in court, filing false documents or claims with the court can be just as bad. As tempting as you might be to embellish or exaggerate your situation, especially in a divorce case, telling the truth in court, and in court documents, is the only way to go. Perjury We normally think of perjury as lying on the witness stand, but it can include signing any legal document you know to be false or misleading. Most perjury laws include documents, records, recordings, or other materials a person knows to contain a false material declaration, and apply to ancillary court proceedings like affidavits and depositions. In the context of divorce documents, perjury statutes could apply to the divorce filing itself (if it contains misstatements regarding the parties, the length of the marriage, or the reasons for separation) or any of the supporting documents. Lies about marital property when deciding who gets what, misrepresentations about income when deciding alimony, or false accusations in child custody determinations can all be considered perjury if they are contained in documents filed with the court and the person filing them knows they are false. Penalties Perjury is considered a crime against justice, and courts take it very seriously. Falsifying legal documents undermines the credibility of courts, and compromises the authority of their decisions. There are both state and federal statutes criminalizing perjury, many that include prison time. Beyond losing your divorce case, you could lose your freedom and your livelihood. To avoid any needless false statements or misleading documents in your divorce case, work with an experienced attorney. Related Resources: Find Divorce Lawyers Near You (FindLaw Directory) What Happens If You Don't Respond to Divorce Papers? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can I Serve Divorce Papers Myself? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) Can I Seal My Divorce Filings? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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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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How to Fact Check Legal Issues in the News

It seems like every big news story has a legal angle. What are the limits for free speech when it comes to racism and public demonstrations? Can the president do anything he wants when it comes to immigration, and are courts allowed to stop him? What is a grand jury subpoena? Knowing the nuts and bolts of the laws underlying these controversies may affect how we view them, but not all of us have law school degrees, so how do we assess the legal assertions made in news coverage of the biggest stories? Lucky for us, we have the American Bar Association, who just launched their Legal Fact Check website, designed to "separate legal fact from fiction." Fact and Fiction The site quotes late U.S. senator Daniel Moynihan, who said: "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts." But in the era of fake news, media bias, and everyone screaming on Facebook and Twitter, those facts can be hard to come by. Especially when the topics are as controversial (and potentially esoteric) as free speech, affirmative action, and the separation of governmental powers. "In a world with multiple sources of information, it is often difficult to distinguish between fact and opinion," said new ABA president Hilarie Bass. "Through our new ABA Legal Fact Check, the American Bar Association will use case and statutory law and other legal precedents to help set the record straight by providing the real facts about the law." Find Legal Facts While Legal Fact Check is still getting off the ground, it's already tackling topics like "whether individuals can be punished for burning the American flag" and "who has the constitutional authority to redraw U.S. Circuit Courts and offer explanations on the power of presidential pardons and hate speech." As it expands, the ABA's site will no doubt be one of the best resources for the legal background on the day's hot-button topics. Until then, you can also peruse the pages of FindLaw's Learn About the Law section, as well as our Legal Blogs, which cover breaking news and backgrounds legal issues relating to criminal, personal injury, and small business law as well as everyday legal issues. And we can also put you in touch with a good lawyer should you need help. Related Resources: ABA Creates Fact Checker Website For Legal Issues in the News (Bloomberg Law) What Power Does the President Have Over Deportation Policy? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Can the President Make Flag Burning Illegal? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) Facebook 'Hate Speech': Is It Free Speech? (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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3 Legal Tips on How to Handle Digital Assets in a Prenuptial Agreement

Living in the 21st century digital world is nearly inescapable at this point. Digital assets abound and can include some unexpected items that may actually possess some unexpected value. Don't believe it? A digital trading card of Hans Solo, that was recently released, goes for $225. Digital assets can include items that have real, transferable monetary values, like online bitcoin accounts, or simply items that have high sentimental value, such as collections of family photos. Regardless of how an item is valued, during a divorce, both tangible and digital assets must be divided, but some digital assets may prove more challenging to divide. As such, including digital assets in a prenuptial agreement is becoming increasingly advisable. Below you'll find three legal tips on how to include digital assets in a prenup. 1. Agree to Maintain Separate Accounts For things like iTunes accounts, digital music, movies, games, and apps, you may just want to agree to maintain separate accounts that will remain separate property, or will be appraised, valued, and offset upon divorce. As opposed to sharing one account, maintaining separate accounts might require a double purchase of an app or game that both you and your spouse want to use. This downside occurs most often with entertainment-related digital assets because these usually only provide purchasers with a single user license, meaning that a game, app, or digital download can only be used by one account. Note that some digital game assets and collections may be transferable and can be valued at thousands of dollars (i.e. the Hans Solo digital trading card mentioned above). As such, you may wish to put a dollar threshold on the value of separate digital accounts. 2. Appraise and Clearly Identify Separate Digital Property Any couple considering a prenup these days likely already has a collection of digital assets, such as their iTunes music library. Most states will consider property acquired prior to marriage as separate property. However, over time, if separate property appreciates in value during the course of a marriage, it could become partly marital or community property. The same is true for digital assets, and can include assets such as social media accounts, particularly if they are related to a business or occupation, or even websites, such as blogs or online businesses. In a prenup, it can be helpful to identify all separate digital assets, and agree that certain ones, like those relating to only one spouse's business, remain separate property. Appraising prior to a prenup can be helpful to ensure that spouses are fully aware of the value, and can track the increase or loss in value for purposes of offsetting property division. 3. Agree to Copy What You Can Digital assets often include items that can be copied freely, such as photos, home movies, and even music. For digital items that can be copied for free, such as iTunes music without DRM protection, it can be agreed to that these will be copied and shared. However, for digital photos, you may want to include a provision prohibiting the sale of photos, as technically the copyright is held by the person who takes the photo, and likeness rights vary from state to state. Related Resources: Need help with family law? A lawyer can review your case for free. (Consumer Injury - Family) Pros and Cons: Premarital Agreements ("Prenuptials") (FindLaw's Learn About the Law) What Can and Cannot be Included in Prenuptial Agreements (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) Death and Digital Privacy: Please Delete My Browser History, Bro (FindLaw's Common Law)
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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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So You Married a Criminal? 3 Legal Tips

While accidentally marrying a criminal sounds more like the subject of TV drama (or comedy) than a real life occurrence, it does happen in real life. Unfortunately, even when a person marries a criminal on accident, there could be real life consequences. Most often, legal consequences for uninvolved spouses stem from organized, or white-collar, criminal activities. For instance, spouses that agree to put things in their names, or sign checks, or take other relatively passive roles, can find themselves looking at actual jail time. Alternatively, spouses that merely reap the financial benefits, completely passively, without being involved at all, can usually expect to minimally have those benefits seized and forfeited. Here are three legal tips on what to do if you accidentally marry a criminal: 1. Annulment May Be Possible If you were tricked into the marriage, you may be able to qualify for an annulment based upon fraud. Unlike a divorce, an annulment will dissolve a marriage and treat it like it never happened. There may be some complicated issues when it comes to separating joint property, but it could potentially protect an innocent spouse from liability. State laws differ about how and when a person will qualify for an annulment, but generally state laws require a showing that the innocent spouse materially relied on a significant misrepresentation in agreeing to marry. If an annulment isn't possible, divorce or legal separation can be pursued. 2. Consult and Retain an Independent Attorney So long as you are not actively involved in the criminal enterprise, you can consult with an attorney on how to keep on the right side of the law. Depending on your situation, this may involve legal separation, divorce, annulment, or maybe not. If you get involved with the criminal enterprise, an attorney will not be able to assist you in continuing to break the law, but may be able to help keep you out of trouble if you are arrested. It is also important to retain your own attorney, rather than rely on joint representation, particularly for a spouse that is not actively engaged. 3. Maintain Separate Accounts Maintaining sufficient separation of financial accounts may not be possible if the criminal enterprise is the sole source of income. However, if there are premarital assets, or you earn legitimate income, these should be maintained separately and diligently tracked. In the event that a criminal prosecution occurs against the criminal spouse, depending on the jurisdiction, being able to trace separate legitimate income may be what prevents it from being seized by the authorities. Related Resources: Find Family Law Attorneys Near You (FindLaw's Lawyer Directory) 5 Potential Ways to Get an Annulment (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life) What Is the Spousal or Marital Privilege? (FindLaw Blotter) How Marriage Annulments Differ from Divorces and the Grounds for Obtaining a Marriage Annulment (FindLaw's Learn About the Law)
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