Signed into law on December 22, 2017 the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017” makes changes to the existing tax code. One of the important implications for our clients is the changes to alimony.
Under the previous law, alimony was deductible by the spouse paying alimony (the obligor). Alimony received was considered taxable income on the tax return of the spouse receiving the spousal support (the obligee). Accordingly, such alimony was taxed as the oblige spouse’s income.
The 2017 Tax act now changes this law going forward. For divorces after December 31, 2018, alimony paid cannot be deducted by the obligor spouse. At the same time, the obligee spouse does not have to pay taxes on alimony received.
This is a marked change in the existing tax laws regarding alimony, which has been the norm for seventy-five years. It is important to note that the new law only affects divorces entered after December 31, 2018.
If you have any questions about divorce or alimony, contact Angel Kane at (615) 444-8081.
Not only does January 1, 2018 bring in the new year, but also new laws as passed by the Tennessee Legislature.
Barbers may now perform their services in a residence. Prior to 2018, barbers could only render their services in a residence for a person who was ill. However, to work in or out of a residence, barbers must possess a residential barber certificate.
A few changes take effect regarding school bus drivers. Beginning in 2018, school bus drivers must be at least twenty-five years old, and all new school bus drivers must complete a training program prior to transporting any children. The changes also create a transportation supervisor program, for the monitoring and supervision of local and charter school transportation.
Homeowners may cancel alarm contracts for periods longer than two (2) years, upon giving thirty (30) days’ notice to an alarm company, if the homeowner has to sell their home for medical reasons. However, the cancellation must come after the initial two (2) year period, and the cancellation must include a letter from the homeowner’s treating physician explaining that the house must be sold and alarm system canceled due to medical reasons.
Individuals seeking handgun carry permits may be exempted from the firing range qualification component if they have proof they passed small arms qualification or combat pistol training in any branch of the United States armed forces.
For motor vehicles, headlights must be either white or amber. It seems most stanard passenger vehicles will comply with this law. However, driver’s may not modify their vehicle headlights to colors other than white or amber.
Most importantly, 2018 brings new penalties for cell phone usage in school zones. Drivers using or talking on a handheld cell phone in a marked school zone when flashers are operating can be prosecuted for a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by a $50 fine.
A 2017 study of Americans published on Bloomberg.com cited that 25% of Americans ages 58-60 surveyed considered themselves in “poor” or “fair” health1. The study further cited that 11% of this same age group suffered from some form of dementia or cognitive decline1. This age group falls directly within the demographic of “baby boomers”, those Americans born between 1946 and 1964. Current estimates establish that 10,000 baby boomers are retiring per day in the United States2.
The realism of these statistics is that most of us have parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, and even friends of this age, who may be experiencing health issues related with aging. Proper estate planning, including having an adequate Will and Powers of Attorney, is the best way to protect one’s interests as they grow older. However, what happens if a person becomes mentally or physically disabled, and is no longer able to manage their affairs, without proper estate planning in place?
Tennessee law provides for such individuals to be granted a conservatorship. In a conservatorship proceeding, a third-party petitioner files a petition with a court highlighting the circumstances surrounding the disabled person’s disability and their relationship with the disabled person. Generally, the petitioner/prospective conservator is a relative of the disabled person; however, the law allows any individual who has not been sentenced to prison to serve as a conservator. As a part of the conservatorship filing, the disabled party must be examined by a doctor and determined to be disabled and unable to properly manage their affairs. The petitioner must also give notice to the disabled person, and their closest relatives of the conservatorship request in the event they wish to contest it.
A court will also usually appoint a neutral attorney, called a guardian ad litem to act as an investigator for the court to determine whether the disabled person is truly disabled and needs a conservator. The guardian ad litem will often speak with the disabled person, as well as the petitioner and render a report as to whether a conservatorship is merited. The Court ultimately makes the determination if a conservatorship is warranted.
A conservator, once appointed, may manage the property of a disabled person. However, the conservator is deemed a fiduciary of the disabled person and must file an initial inventory of the disabled person’s property. Additionally, the conservator must file periodic accountings of the disabled person’s property. The conservator also may be liable for wrongful actions or failing to file timely reports while acting as conservator.
If you are concerned about a family member or friend’s ability to manage their affairs, call Amanda Crowell at (615) 449-4848 to discuss conservatorships.
My legal assistant and I were recently discussing what questions clients and prospective clients ask her about meeting with myself and other attorneys here. As a result of our conversation, we came up with following tips for clients when meeting with their attorneys.
Write down questions and concerns beforehand
What do you actually want to accomplish through your attorney? You should have a basic idea of what outcome you are hoping for. This helps me, as an attorney, to know what objectives I’m working towards and tailor my representation to achieve your goals. As an attorney, I’m here to help you BUT you, as the client, are my customer and I seek to achieve your objectives on your behalf.
Try to relax
Easier said than done, right? I understand whatever situation you may be in can be very stressful and upsetting. However, being able to speak clearly and calmly greatly helps us to understand the facts of your case. Family law and criminal defense are possibly the two most emotional areas of the law, and I completely understand the stress and emotions one may experience. In my 20+ years practicing law, I’ve seen clients cry in my office and get upset, and it’s perfectly fine.
Make sure you tell me EVERTHING relevant to your case even if it makes you look bad
As an attorney, I have to know EVERYTHING in order to represent a client the best I can. A crucial part of the attorney-client relationship is candor between the parties. If you leave information out when discussing your case, especially if it’s on purpose, then this information could come out in the courtroom in front of the judge or jury. You do not want this to happen. This can make both the attorney and the Client look bad and lose credibility. When you tell me information, even bad information, there are various ways I can attempt to exclude or minimize this information.
Bring a notebook
The legal process has many steps. It’s easy to get confused when talking about your case and the specific steps that must be taken. Taking notes helps you keep track of those steps, as well as writing down any additional information that I may need from you, for you to provide later.
Bring any prior paperwork you may have
You should bring in all pertinent paperwork about your case if it’s ongoing. The legal system operates on deadlines and dates. I, as an attorney, need to see what has been filed with the court so I know what may have already occurred and what needs to be done going forward.
I know the legal process can be scary and overwhelming. However, hiring an attorney to help guide you through the process can make it that much easier. It’s always comforting to have someone on your side and fighting for YOU. By following these suggestions above, you can have a more productive meeting with your attorney.
Contact Angel at (615) 784-4800 to set up a consultation regarding your case.
Many clients who come to us for advice during a divorce are going through it for the first time and have many questions. Although the process can be very complicated, knowing the basic information can help put a client at ease during a stressful time.
Divorce can be a difficult situation for every party involved. It is the legal undoing of two people’s assets, liabilities, and everything in between that make up the fabric of their lives. Knowing what to expect and being prepared for the inevitable changes are important when you are going through a divorce.
The first decision to be made is whether the divorce will be contested or uncontested. If you can come to a full agreement, the divorce is uncontested and the process is more simple. If you cannot come to a full agreement, the divorce is contested and requires negotiation, mediation, and, in some cases, a trial.
In an uncontested divorce, the parties, or their attorneys, complete the necessary paperwork and file with the Court. If children are involved, parents must take a parenting class and file the certificate of completion with the Court.
In a contested divorce, one party will begin the process by filing a complaint for divorce. The other party will then file their answer to that complaint and, possibly, a counter-complaint. The parties or their attorneys will then enter the negotiation phase. If negotiation is unsuccessful, the parties must attend mediation with a third party. In most cases, an agreement is able to be reached in either of these two phases. In some cases, mediation is not successful and the parties must have a trial to allow a judge to decide the issues, which can be a lengthy process.
In Tennessee, the mandatory waiting period for a divorce from the time of filing is 60 days if the parties have no minor children and 90 days if the parties have minor children. This means that the divorce cannot be finalized until the time period runs.
If you or someone you know is contemplating divorce or have been served with a complaint for divorce, contact us to get answers to your questions and let us assist you in making the best decisions. Call Kane and Crowell at (615) 784-4800 for more information about the divorce process in Tennessee.
Are you aware that what you post on social media may be used against you in your case? Likewise, you may use another party’s social media posts against them in your case. However, obtaining proof of these posts is not always easy. Ideally, you would be able to get an image of the posts. A subpoena or court order may be needed to recover posts that have been deleted or hidden. Some social media companies have argued it violates people’s constitutional rights to force them to provide someone’s social media account information or history. Here is a link to an article regarding a recent NY Court of Appeals decision on whether Facebook must give access to their users’ posts. The Court decided Facebook must comply with requests to access user data. https://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/22/technology/facebook-loses-appeal-on-new-york-search-warrants.html?smid=tw-share
At Kane and Crowell, we are ready to advise you on how social media posts and information may specifically affect your case. Call us now to schedule a consultation. (615) 784-4800
Everyone going through a divorce in Tennessee has to take a court-approved parenting class if you have minor children at the time of your divorce. According to www.tn.gov, “This class or series of classes gives parents the information necessary to deal with their children and with each other during and after the divorce process. These seminars are meant to help the divorcing family through the traumas of divorce without putting more stress on the parties and their children.” The class includes topics related to children and family such as counseling; an overview of the Court, mediation, child support, and parenting plan process; suggested ways to help children of various ages cope with divorce; and grief and loss stages that everyone involved may experience through the process. This class must be completed within sixty (60) days of your divorce being finalized, BUT the sooner you can take the class, the better off everyone will be (and maybe even save you money in the long run.)
The class can be taken in-person or online and typically lasts 4 hours. The cost is approximately $50, depending on the course you choose. As part of our legal services in a divorce case, we help our clients figure out the best way for the to complete this crucial step. Contact us today at (615) 784-4800 to see how we can assist you.
Blended families are sometimes hard to navigate. The goal of the courts is to keep families intact. However, that is not always possible or the best scenario. Some biological parents make the decision that it would be in the best interest of the child for him or her to be adopted by their step-parent. In Tennessee, children may be adopted by a step-parent in a couple of ways.
A biological parent’s legal rights regarding and claim to a minor child must be terminated before a child may be adopted. This may be done involuntarily by a court or the parent may consent to the termination. In the case of involuntary termination, the court will look at whether the parent has abandoned the child, whether the parent has provided for the child, and whether the parent has established a relationship with the child, among other factors. In the case of consent to termination, the biological parent simply has to be included in the petition for adoption as a co-petitioner, along with the other biological parent and the step-parent. After all petitioners sign the petition in front of a notary, the petition may be filed with the court and a court date may be set.
It is important for all parties to understand the results of termination of parental rights. The parent whose rights are being terminated will not be responsible for future support of the child, but will be responsible for any child support arrears owed before the adoption is finalized by a judge. The parent will also have no claim in the future to any property, inheritance, or benefits of the child. Alternatively, the child will no longer be entitled to any claim to any property, inheritance, or benefits of the parent.
Once the adoption is finalized, the step-parent will be responsible for the child until the age of 18. At the request of the parties and upon approval of court, the child’s last name may be changed to the last name of the step-parent.
Step-parent adoption is a fairly easy process. In Tennessee, the required home study, 6 month waiting period and adopting parent class may be waived by the courts. If you are considering a step-parent adoption, contact us for help. We would be happy to assist you in the process. (615) 784-4800.
It’s a situation that we see too often: Parents cannot agree on a visitation schedule for a child and the father cannot see the child because he has no legal rights. A mother may move away with the child and the father disagrees but has no grounds to contest the move because he has no legal rights.
In Tennessee, a mother’s husband at the time of the birth of child is the legal father of that child, whether or not he is the biological father. If the mother and father are not married at the time of the child’s birth, the parents may sign a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity and have the father’s name placed on the birth certificate. A voluntary acknowledgment of paternity and birth certificate, however, are not sufficient legal proof that a man is a child’s father.
If the parents were not married at the time of the child’s birth and the father wants visitation and legal rights to the child, he must ask for an order of the court. A mother and father can agree to paternity and ask the court to establish the father’s rights to the child. Alternatively, if they disagree, the father is entitled to a paternity test to prove he is the father of the child. Once the parties agree or a successful DNA test is complete, the court will produce an order of paternity and establish visitation and other legal rights.
Establishing paternity is a very important step in being able to parent your child. Many fathers wait until there is an issue with visitation or support before they ask the court to establish them as the father’s child. Due to the length of time this can take, a father may miss out on a significant portion of a child’s life. If you were not married to your child’s mother at the time of the child’s birth and have never been legally declared the child’s father, do not procrastinate in establishing paternity. We have successfully helped establish paternity for fathers in multiple counties and we would be happy to help you. Contact us with questions today at (615) 784-4800.