On January 13, 2021, my clients received a moral and legal victory. When I originally took their case in July 2018, the mother and stepfather of a then three year old girl seemed to have an ironclad case to terminate the biological father’s parental rights. The biological father knew exactly where my clients lived and how to contact them. The biological father had never established his paternity and never paid more than token support for the child. He had not initiated contact with the child since she was seventeen months old.
When you are going through a divorce, you will hear property being described as “marital property” and “separate property.” Generally, marital property are assets which were acquired during the marriage. If property is deemed marital during a divorce, then it will be subject to division by the divorce court. Separate property can include property that was owned by you prior to the divorce, or a gift/inheritance which has been acquired during the marriage. If something as deemed is your separate property, then it will be not be subject to division by the divorce court.
If you are trying to claim that an inheritance or gift was made just to you, you will need to provide evidence of that, as your spouse may try to claim the inheritance or gift was made to the both of you. For example, if you are claiming that your parents gifted you $15,000.00 as a down payment on your house, you may want to produce bank statements or some kind of record showing that the money was gifted solely to you. If not, then the money can be considered marital property, which means it would be subject to an equitable division during your divorce.
If you are filing for divorce or have more questions regarding property division during your divorce, contact Amanda Crowell at Kane & Crowell Family Law Center at www.kane-law.com or by phone at (615) 784-4800. We handle cases in Wilson County, Sumner County, Trousdale County, Macon County, Smith County, and Rutherford County and are happy to put our experience at work for you.
There may be many reasons that you do not want one of your children to receive any part of your Estate upon your death. You may not have a good relationship with that child, or maybe you feel like that child is better off than the rest of your children, so they do not need any part of your Estate. Whatever the reason, you are certainly able to disinherit a child in your Last Will & Testament. It is important that you have a Will drawn up if you want to disinherit a child, because you will not be able to disinherit them if you do not have one. Your Will must make it very clear that you are wanting to disinherit this child so that it does not seem like a mistake was made and you just accidentally “left them out of the Will”. Simply failing to mention the child in your Will is certainly not a good idea, as this may lead the Court to think a mistake was made or that this child was born before your Will was drawn up; therefore, the Court may think that child should be entitled to some part of your Estate. It is very important to state your intention clearly in your Will.
You do not have to state the reason you want to disinherit your child, but some people find it useful to leave a letter (separate from their Will) which states the reason that a child is being disinherited. If you do this though, make sure your letter does not contradict anything that you have written in your Will.
If you have any further questions about disinheriting a child, contact Amanda Crowell at Kane & Crowell Family Law Center at www.kane-law.com or by phone at (615) 784-4800. Let us put our experience to work for you.
Going to Court can seem scary to those who have never been. Hopefully these tips will help alleviate some of your fears.
What to Wear?
This is one of the biggest questions that our clients ask if they have never been to Court. When you are thinking about what to wear to Court, you want to think of it as if you were going to a job interview. You want the Judge to know that you respect the Courtroom and that you think this process is important.
For men, it is not necessary to wear a suit but, of course, you can wear one if you want to. Men should usually wear a button-down shirt with dress slacks and nice shoes. For women, it is appropriate to wear a nice shirt with slacks, a suit, or a nice dress.
What to Bring?
You are not allowed to bring your cell phone, iPad, or laptop with you in the courtroom, so please leave them in your car when you come. You can bring your notes or a legal pad to write on if you want to take notes during the hearing.
Inside the Courtroom
You and your attorney will usually go into the courtroom together. Our office is located right across the street from the courthouse, and our Attorneys will usually walk to Court with you. If it is a day that other cases are being heard, you want to be sure to be respectful during those hearings. When it is time for your case to be heard, the Judge will call the parties and their attorneys up. The Judge will be in the middle of the courtroom sitting on the bench. You will sit on one side of the courtroom with your attorney, and the opposing party will be on the other side with their attorney. Please always be sure you are respectful to the Judge, as well as the other attorney if they are asking you questions. You should also be aware of your body language while in the courtroom. The Judge will be watching you at all times, so try not to make it known if you are frustrated (easier said than done of course).
Even if you have paid close attention during the hearing, you may still be wondering “what just happened” after Court. Your Attorney will explain to you what all happened, what the Judge decided, and what the next steps are after your hearing. You may even have questions in the days to follow the hearing, so be sure to follow up with your Attorney until you fully understand what happened in Court.
The Attorneys at Kane & Crowell Family Law Center have more than two decades of experience and are in Court daily. The most important advice we can give you is to listen to our advice and ask questions if you do not understand. Our Attorneys and staff can make an anxious situation much, much easier.
If you are filing for divorce, have a custody situation, a probate matter, or need a will or trust, contact us at www.kane-law.com or by phone at (615) 784-4800. We handle cases in Wilson County, Sumner County, Trousdale County, Macon County, Smith County, and Rutherford County and are happy to our experience at work for you.
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.
I am frequently contacted by potential clients who tell me that they have only been married for a short period – maybe a few days or a few weeks. They do not want to have to go through the divorce process and wonder if they can have their marriage annulled instead.
The answer depends upon whether you have grounds for an annulment. Those grounds have nothing to do with the length of the marriage. If a marriage is annulled, it means that because of some defect, no valid marriage ever occurred between the parties. There is one ground for annulment in Tennessee law. If either of the parties is under the age of 16 years, the marriage may be annulled by one of the parties or by any interested person acting on his or her behalf. (T.C.A. 36-3-105.) Otherwise, annulment is based upon equity, and the Chancery Court has inherent jurisdiction. The grounds upon which Chancery Court could declare a marriage to be annulled are the following:
1) Prior existing marriage. State law requires that a party be married to only one person.
2) Violation of statute. Parties must follow the mandatory provisions of the Marriage Act set forth in T.C.A. 36-3-306 pertaining to a marriage license, ceremony, etc.
3) Denial of Marital Rights. Parties must consummate the marriage and cohabitate unless otherwise agreed between the parties. One party may not have a secret intention to create a sham with the marriage.
4) Mental Capacity. Both parties must be able to form the requisite intent to consent to the marriage.
5) Impotency. This is defined as the inability to consummate the marriage which existed prior to the marriage and which is permanent, incurable, or the party refuses to submit to treatment.
6) Duress. This is coercion which renders the party incapable of freely consenting to the marriage. It may be by force, restraint or threat.
7) Fraud. The fraud must have been calculated to induce the marriage, and the innocent party must have relied upon such inducement.
If you believe you have grounds for annulment, it is important to speak with an attorney who can examine the facts of your case and determine if an annulment is appropriate in your situation.
I often have a parent (usually a mother) contact me and state that the other parent wants to give up his rights to his child and have no more obligations to that child. Can a parent voluntarily give up all rights to his or her child? The answer is not a simple one. If the parent has been established as the biological or legal parent of a child, that parent cannot simply relinquish his parental rights so that he or she no longer has a duty of support.
The exception would be if there is a potential adoptive parent who is ready and willing to replace the other parent and become the legal parent of this child. Courts do not want to reduce the child to the status of having only one parent; therefore, termination of parental rights and adoption usually go hand in hand.
There are different methods of terminating parental rights, and it can certainly be accomplished voluntarily under the right circumstances. There are also many grounds for the involuntary termination of parental rights in the event that the parent will not agree to the termination so that the child will be freed for adoption. Adoption and termination law is very complex, and the procedures vary according to the type of adoption which is anticipated.
I have experience in all types of adoption actions including step parent, related, agency, independent, and international adoption and have represented both adoptive parents and birth mothers. It is crucial for all parties to have excellent legal representation for the adoption process to have a positive outcome.
Recent revisions to the divorce laws in Tennessee require the courts to attempt to maximize the amount of time each parent spends with the minor child or children in fashioning a parenting plan. Sometimes the judge will decide that this means that a 50-50 division of time will accomplish this goal; however, there are many factors that a judge must take into account in determining a parenting schedule, and the most important is always the best interests of the child. You do not have to agree to any division of parenting time that you do not believe is in your child or children’s best interests. A good divorce attorney can help you determine what is likely to happen in court based upon the circumstances of your case, your children’s specific needs, and the usual preferences of the judge who will ultimately decide your matter.
The number of days each parent spends with the minor child or children will impact your life in many ways. Not only does it impact who is named as primary parent but it also affects the amount of child support paid and the standard which the judge will use in determining whether a parent can later take the child when moving more than 50 miles away from the other parent or outside the State of Tennessee.
It is important to remember that once filed with the court, a parenting plan cannot be easily changed. It becomes a court order, and unless you can prove a legally defined substantial and material change of circumstance, the parenting plan will remain in place until the child or children reach the age of majority.
Many people make the mistake of agreeing to a parenting plan without hiring an attorney to explain to them the long term consequences of such an agreement and to represent to the court what they believe is in their child’s best interests. Many times, they are then bound by a plan that they do not believe is right for them or their children with no way to remedy the situation.
When you realize how much is at stake, you will understand the importance of having an attorney on your side through the divorce process.