The Legal Insider
In this issue:
How to Create a Stress-Free Holiday Parenting Schedule
Co-parenting is no easy feat, especially when you throw holidays in the mix. Creating a shared-custody schedule can be frustrating because no parent wants to give up celebrating these special times with their children, but it's important for the well-being of the children that they spend time with both parents during the holidays.
Even if you already have a comprehensive shared-visitation schedule in place, holidays typically take special consideration and planning. There's a multitude of ways to determine a holiday schedule — what's important is to do what works the best for each parent and the children.
Assign Fixed Holidays
If one holiday is more important to one parent than it is to the other, assigning the same fixed holidays each year could be a possible solution. Usually holidays such as Easter, Mother's and Father's Day, Labor Day, and other smaller holidays are easier to assign. Parents typically struggle more with giving up Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Alternate Holidays Every Other Year
This arrangement usually works in joint custody situations by assigning each parent a certain holiday in even-numbered years and the other parent that same holiday in odd-numbered years. The benefit of alternating years is that neither parent has to miss a holiday with their child more than one year in a row and traditions can still be created and held.
For example, the mother could get all holidays in an even-numbered year or the mother could get Thanksgiving in even-numbered years and Christmas in odd-numbered years and vice versa. The latter is probably the more desirable option since holidays would be split as closely to even as possible each year, rather than waiting an entire year to celebrate a holiday with your child.
Split the Holiday in Half
Splitting all the holidays in half allows each parent to spend quality time with their child on every holiday. The downside to this one is that unless each parent lives extremely close to each other, traveling time is inevitable which takes out a good chunk of the day.
Schedule a Holiday Twice
If one parent isn't as concerned with the actual date of the holiday, parents could devise a visitation plan where a child can celebrate a holiday twice with each parent. This plan works well for holidays that have 2 celebration days, such as Christmas, Easter, and Passover. For example, one parent can celebrate Christmas on December 24th and the other parent can celebrate Christmas on December 25th. Other holidays, such as Thanksgiving, can be celebrated on a separate day, which gives the other parent an opportunity to be involved in the holiday each year.
As Turkey Day Nears, Black Wednesday Brings DUI Checkpoints
With Thanksgiving just around the corner, traveling to and from holiday festivities makes this one of the busiest travel times of the year. Not only does travel increase, but so does the celebrating. Black Wednesday has become known as one of the biggest drinking days of the year — couple that with increased travel time and DUI checkpoints are inevitable.
Despite Controversy, Checkpoints Are Legal
Sobriety checkpoints, also known as DUI or OWI checkpoints, are common roadblocks, but not every state uses them. For the states that do, there's a lot of controversy surrounding the legality of DUI checkpoints because they involve warrantless searches and seizures.
The 4th Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures absent probable cause. Typically, in order for an officer to perform a legal traffic stop, an officer must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has occurred. Checkpoints can present problems because they require stopping a vehicle at random and, therefore, without any reasonable suspicion.
The U.S. Supreme Court has, however, held that despite violating the 4th Amendment, DUI checkpoints are legal. In Michigan Dept. of State Police v. Sitz, SCOTUS held the governments interest in preventing drunk driving outweighs the relatively minor infringement on the right not to be stopped without probable cause.
Don't Forget That You Do Have Rights
This doesn't mean you're out of luck. Sobriety checkpoints must be neutral and completely random — an officer must not use discretion when stopping vehicles, but rather a predetermined mathematical formula (such as every other car).
Additionally, stops are meant to be brief. Officers do not have a right to search you or your vehicle unless, upon stopping, they obtain probable cause. For example, after stopping a vehicle at random, an officer notices the driver has bloodshot eyes and slurred speech. At that point, an officer would have probable cause the driver is under the influence.
Despite attempts otherwise, you're also not required to submit to field sobriety tests (not to be confused with a chemical test). These are tests like the walk and turn test, one leg stand test, or the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which are conducted solely for the purposes of helping an officer gain probably cause.
Remember that you have the right to remain silent and, although you should always be respectful when exercising your 5th Amendment right, you're not required to answer an officer's questions or admit to breaking the law. It's also important to note you're free to go unless you're being detained, i.e. arrested.
Preventive Measures for Holiday Employers
As the holiday season is approaching, employers can avoid potential sexual harassment claims by taking the following preventive measures:
Send Around the Company's Sexual Harassment Policy Before the Holiday Party
If you are an employer who is having a company holiday party, it is important to remind your employees that holiday parties is not an exception for violating the sexual harassment policy. Before the company holiday party takes place, either post the policy around the office or email it around reminding all employees of the conduct that would be considered as sexual harassment and the consequences that could be involved.
Limit the Alcohol Consumption
Limit the use of alcohol at these holiday parties by placing restrictions or implementing procedures in order for employees to stay within their limits. Many sexual harassment incidents occur because there was alcohol involved and employees disregarded the consequences because they were under the influence.
Train Managers and Supervisors
Train your managers and supervisors to keep an eye out for conduct and behavior that would be considered sexual harassment. Most importantly, make sure the managers and supervisors of the company do not behave in a manner that would be considered sexual harassment as well. If they set an example, others will follow.
What Can I Do as a Victim of Sexual Harassment?
If you have been the victim of sexual harassment at a company holiday party, make sure you make a written record of the incident and what happened while you still remember the specific facts about it. Speak to other employees and co-workers to determine if they know anything about the situation or if they were also a victim of sexual harassment. Next, go to your manager or the Human Resources Department and describe the incident and why you believe you are a victim of sexual harassment. Having witnesses or other types of documented evidence would be very helpful in this case.
What Are Your Responsibilities After a Car Crash?
Up nearly a quarter of a million from the year before, a staggering 6.2 million vehicular accidents were reported in 2015. Financial repercussions and dealing with property damage are the first stressors that come to mind after an accident, but if you're part of those unfortunate statistics and land yourself in the middle of a car accident, there are basic guidelines you should follow.
Most states have laws requiring a driver to stop when involved in an auto accident. Criminal charges are imminent if you don't stop — hit and run penalties are no joke and can result in misdemeanor or felony charges. In fact, unless your car poses an immediate traffic hazard or there are signs posted directing otherwise, you shouldn't even move your car from the site of an accident.
Not only is it your responsibility to cover property damages when at fault, but some states require you to give reasonable assistance to an injured person. This doesn't mean giving medical assistance if you don't have the knowhow, but could be something as simple as calling for an ambulance.
Even if there is no property damage or physical injury, you should still stop to exchange insurance information with the other driver. If you hit a parked car, you must leave a note, even if the driver isn't present.
Reporting to the Police
The police should be your first point of contact after an accident. Contacting the police will only help avoid issues associated with auto accidents and not only that, but officers are the most effective tools for assessing fault. This is especially important when there are no eye witnesses.
Another important reason to call 911? Officers hand out accident reports and even for those states that don't require reporting for minor accidents with no injuries, obtaining accident reports are necessary in order to get any kind of insurance benefits. Otherwise, you'll be doling out those repair expenses yourself.
Be Prepared with Your Insurance Information
If you've reported to the police, they'll get most of the required information for you, but if the accident is minor and you're not required to contact the police, you'll still need to exchange personal information with the other driver.
Most importantly, this should include names, contact information, and any insurance information of each driver involved in the accident. If there's any eye witnesses, don't forget to get their name and information as well. Being prepared by obtaining as much information as possible (the make, model, license plate number, vin number, etc.) can only help avoid any possible conflicts with insurance companies.