IS YOUR TEENAGER DRIVING YOUR CAR TONIGHT?

Your children are teenagers.  They run your life,  They run your house.  They run your TV.  They certainly run your budget.

 

And more than likely, they also run your car.

 

We let it happen.  Maybe because their demand is so constant that saying “no” becomes exhausting.  Maybe because it is so convenient to have them drive themselves rather than us drive them.

 

But most of us worry about them driving, especially at night.  Of course, we worry about them getting hurt somehow.  And some of us also worry about liability if they run into someone.  Are we, as parents, in jeopardy as a result?

 

The answer is probably no.

 

As  Arizona consumer protection attorneys, we know the law does not make you liable for giving your car to someone else when that person negligently runs into someone, as long as that person is not your employee or agent.  But there is a long-standing exception that consumer protection and litigation attorneys are aware of called the “family purpose doctrine”.  What it says is that you, as head of the household and owner of the car, will be liable for the negligence of a family member who hits somebody with your car if you consented, expressly or impliedly, to that person using the car for her “pleasure and convenience”.

 

Most of us try to monitor the actions of our teenagers, at least by giving instructions or setting restrictions on their use of our cars.  Are we still liable under the Family Purpose Doctrine when the child gets in an accident while violating our instructions?

 

Again, the answer is probably no.

 

This answer was provided by a recent Arizona case called Young v. Beck, in which the parents (after a prior accident involving their teenager) gave him the car with the express restriction that he was not to use it to transport his friends.  Despite that instruction, the boy drove his friends around the neighborhood, “egging” houses and cars.  In the process, he hit another vehicle, whose driver sued the parents.

 

Noting that the parents were aware of the boy’s prior accident and were benefited by not having to drive him themselves, the Arizona Court of Appeals held that the Family Purpose Doctrine applied and the parents were liable.
Good luck.

 

 

Divorce: My God I’m Alone!

“My God, I’m Alone”: The First Steps To Take When You Separate

You thought it might be happening, but you weren’t sure, and now your mate is gone.  You feel debilitated with barely enough energy to get out of bed and get the kids to school. But you know you can’t just sit around because you are now the one who must handle your life.  Your mate did the money, including the bills and the mortgage and the car payment and who knows what else, and now, with that person not around, you don’t know where to start.  This is a critical time for you: despite your hurt, there are steps you need to take right away to avoid worse problems later.  Here are five things at the top of that list:

  1. Get your credit report. These are offered through several services, one of which may be your bank. A credit report allows you to see what debts you and your spouse have. You share your credit with your spouse, and his or her actions can ruin you.  Frequently, in a divorce, one spouse learns for the first time that the other spouse took on a major debt. A credit report prevents against such an in-court surprise. Get knowledgeable.

 

2. Close joint accounts.  To prevent your mate from running up debts that you may be held responsible for, cancel all joint credit cards immediately and apply for credit cards that are in your name alone. Even the credit cards you have not used in years. Similarly, if you have a joint loan, you may want to either pay off the loan or sell the asset.

 3. Create a financial plan. Make sure you have enough money to live on for the next few months. You are going to lose one income and face some new expenses. It is important to set aside enough money to live on for several months and to also budget. Cutting back on some costs will cut down on your stress in an already emotional time.  You may also find it useful to talk to a financial planner.

4. Open a bank account in your name. Now that you are out on your own again, it is time to rebuild your credit. One of the first steps is to open your own bank account. Arizona is a community property state, meaning that any money you or your spouse earn during marriage is split between you. And remember that the fact that the two of you have separated does not mean that the marriage has ended.  But go ahead and do your separate account anyway.  If the Petition for Dissolution ever turns into a finalized divorce, then all the money that went into your account as of the date of the service of the Petition will be deemed to be your separate property.  Confusing?  I understand.  Talk to an Arizona Divorce Lawyer.

5. Create a record of your assets and property. This starts with taking inventory of all your assets and personal property. You need to have a written list and photographs of the property that you and your spouse own. Put together an organized file with records of all marital property, assets, debts and financial documents (bank account statements, credit card statements, 401K documents, life insurance, tax returns, etc.), and photos. Make sure that they are organized in a way that enables you to find each document quickly. This will also make it easier for your divorce lawyer (which will save you money).

Finally, divorce is an emotional and complicated process, and you will have a lot on the line. It really is in your best interest to get an Arizona Divorce Lawyer on your side as soon as possible.