Kane & Crowell

The official blog of Kane & Crowell, a Lebanon, Tennessee Law Office.

Going on Your Permanent Record: the Juvenile Justice System

The Wilson County Criminal Justice Center in Lebanon.

           The term “juvenile” is sometimes associated with thoughts of immaturity, inexperience and curiosity. Juveniles often make mistakes from which they can learn, but may have lasting consequences. Thankfully, in Tennessee, there are ways to keep a juvenile’s criminal record confidential to prevent harm to their future.

            In Tennessee, an arrest as a juvenile should not show up on a background check. However, there is no guarantee that will not happen. Sometimes a simple clerical error can cause a juvenile arrest to show up on a background check. However, juvenile convictions, or guilty pleas, can show up on background checks. In order to prevent an arrest or conviction from showing up on a background check, a juvenile’s parents, guardian or attorney should ensure the juvenile’s criminal record is expunged, or “wiped clean” as soon as possible. Some offenses, such as sexual crimes or certain felonies, are not able to be expunged. For all others, records can be expunged as long as the juvenile meets certain criteria, such as not getting into trouble and making good choices for one year from the date the court entered the judgment.

            To have a criminal record expunged, a juvenile’s parents, guardian or attorney must petition the court on his/her behalf for an expungement. Most courts require an expungement fee to be paid before it can be finalized. Once the expungement order is signed, the juvenile’s parents, guardian or attorney should keep a copy of the order as they cannot obtain another copy in the future, if needed.

            Many people ask if a juvenile has to answer “yes” when asked if they have been convicted of a crime. The short answer is, an arrest is not a conviction and is confidential but a conviction may show up on a background check unless it is expunged. If the record has not been expunged, it’s usually best to answer “yes” and then explain the situation later. However, before you answer “yes”, it’s best to consult with a criminal attorney experienced in juvenile matters. At Kane & Crowell, our attorneys have experience dealing with matters of juvenile justice.  Contact us at (615) 784-4800 to learn more. 

Continue reading
  2845 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
2845 Hits
0 Comments

Hands-Free or Hands Off!

A woman uses a cell phone while driving           

          In 2018, drivers across Tennessee have at least one new law to be wary of.  Beginning January 1, it shall be a Class C misdemeanor to operate or talk on a hand-held cellphone while in a school zone marked by flashing lights.  This offense is punishable by a $50 fine. 

            However, adult drivers (18 or older) may operate a motor vehicle in a school zone and use a “hands-free” cell phone device. 

            Unfortunately for drivers under 18, they cannot use either a conventional cell phone or “hands-free” device while in a school zone. 

            These new laws supplement the existing laws regarding cell phones and driving, so texting and driving remains illegal. 

            Don’t get caught this year with your head in your apps.  Seems better to spend $50 in the App Store than on a traffic fine! 

            If you have a legal issue requiring representation in criminal matters, contact attorney Ashley Jackson at (615) 784-4800.

Continue reading
  2782 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
2782 Hits
0 Comments

Alimony Taxation: What you should know

        tax forms   

            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. 

Continue reading
  2390 Hits
  0 Comments
2390 Hits
0 Comments

New Year, New Laws Take Effect

The Tennessee State Capitol at night time

            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.

            For more information about the new laws taking effect January 1, 2018, visit http://www.local8now.com/content/news/16-new-Tennessee-laws-come-with-the-new-year-466717603.html

            If you have a legal issue, contact the attorneys at Kane & Crowell Family Law Center at (615) 784-4800.  

Continue reading
  2842 Hits
  0 Comments
2842 Hits
0 Comments

Have a Safe and Happy New Year's Eve

Partiers celebrate New Year's in Times Square

       Happy New Year from Kane and Crowell! New Year’s Eve is, arguably, the Tennessee Highway Patrol’s busiest weekend when it comes to patrolling and ensuring safe driving. Every year, THP conducts multiple roadblocks around the New Year holiday. Some of these roadblocks are announced ahead of time and some are not. THP has announced the following roadblocks in our area:

·         12/29/2017 Macon County Driver’s License Checkpoint at Sneed Blvd @ Main Street

·         12/31/2017 Wilson County Sobriety Checkpoint at US 231 / LOJAC 2147 Murfreesboro Road

·         12/31/2017 Dekalb County Sobriety Checkpoint at SR 56 @ Putnam County Road

You can see all other announced checkpoints here: https://www.tn.gov/content/dam/tn/safety/documents/dec2017_checkpoints.pdf

If you plan to celebrate New Year’s Eve in downtown Nashville, the Davidson County Sheriff’s Department is offering free sober rides from 10 p.m. New Year’s Eve until 2 a.m. New Year’s Day from pickup locations at Broadway and 2nd Avenue South and 4th Avenue North and Harrison Street near Bicentennial Mall.  Find more information on the sober ride program here: http://www.wsmv.com/story/37152963/sheriffs-office-employees-offering-free-sober-rides-on-new-years-eve

  If you drink this New Year’s, don’t drive.  If you find yourself in a situation that requires legal assistance, call us at (615) 784-4800.  We wish you a safe and happy 2018! 

Continue reading
  2164 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
2164 Hits
0 Comments

Conservatorships and Caring for Disabled Persons

        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.

______________________________________________________________________________

1: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-23/americans-are-retiring-later-dying-sooner-and-sicker-in-between

2: https://www.investopedia.com/articles/personal-finance/032216/are-we-baby-boomer-retirement-crisis.asp

Continue reading
  2123 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
2123 Hits
0 Comments

Diversion: What you should know

For individuals charged with certain crimes, diversion of these charges may be an option.  Diversion is a creation of the Tennessee Legislature and is governed by statute.  Tennessee allows principally two types of diversion: pre-trial diversion and judicial diversion. 

In pre-trial diversion, an individual charged with certain crimes may, with the consent of the District Attorney General, have their case suspended with conditions. An agreement is drafted between the Defendant and the District Attorney, and generally contains conditions requiring that the Defendant not commit any criminal offense, the Defendant avoid certain activities related to the charge, the Defendant make restitution to any victims, or that the Defendant pay court costs, among other conditions.  Additionally, the agreement may require the Defendant to submit to counseling, payment of supervision expenses, or if the charge involved drugs or alcohol, require the Defendant to keep and wear an alcohol monitoring device.  Pre-trial diversion is not a dismissal; rather, prosecution of the case is suspended for up to two (2) years.  The trial court may dismiss the charge ninety (90) days after the expiration of the suspension period, provided the Defendant has complied with all conditions of the diversion agreement.  If the Defendant violates the diversion agreement, the prosecution of the crime will be resumed.    

In judicial diversion, the Defendant conditionally pleads guilty or no contest, however entry of the judgment is deferred and the Defendant is placed upon probation.  Like with pre-trial diversion, not all crimes are eligible for judicial diversion.  The probation ordered by the Court cannot exceed the maximum sentence for the crime the Defendant is charged with.  In addition, the Court may order any other reasonable conditions as it sees fit as a part of the probation, including ordering alcohol monitoring or temporary confinement in jail for a period not to exceed thirty (30) days.  The Defendant must also pay supervision fees for the probation, and the granting of the diversion is expressly conditioned upon payment of such fees.  Judicial diversion is not a dismissal; however, upon successful completion of the probation period, provided the Defendant has complied with all terms and conditions of probation, the Court shall discharge the Defendant from probation and dismiss the underlying charges.  An individual who successfully completes judicial diversion may also have the charge expunged upon application to the Court and payment of any fees or outstanding court costs.  If the Defendant violates probation, the prior guilty or no contest plea will be entered and the Defendant will be sentenced accordingly. 

Diversion is a helpful option for individuals charged with certain crimes, and may allow them to avoid both jail time and having a conviction on one’s record.  However, there are restrictions as to the types of crimes eligible for diversion. Further, an individual seeking diversion cannot have had a prior diversion. 

Our attorneys have successfully entered diversions for our clients in various criminal cases.  Call attorney Ashley Jackson at (615) 784-4800 for more information if you are charged with a crime for more information about criminal representation.    

Continue reading
  2273 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
2273 Hits
0 Comments

Five tips for meeting with your attorney

 

image: lawyer definition

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. 

Continue reading
  1961 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
1961 Hits
0 Comments

Miranda Rights: What are they?

Image: Miranda warning card

 

“You have the right to remain silent.  Anything you say, can and will be used against you in a court of law.”  Those of us who routinely watch police dramas know that individuals suspected of crimes have  “Miranda rights.”  Just hearing the phrase “Miranda rights” conjures up images of a police officer hauling away an individual in handcuffs or a defendant sweating in a dark interview room while being interrogated by a tired looking police detective.  While many people know the basics of Miranda, you may not know the historical evolution and the extent of Miranda rights. 

Concerned by the techniques and practices law enforcement used in questioning and interrogating individuals in police custody in the mid-20th Century, the United States Supreme Court laid down the landmark opinion in Miranda v. Arizona in 1966.  Ultimately, the Court mandated the use of “procedural safeguards” to protect a defendant’s constitutional rights against compelled self-incrimination and right to counsel.  The “procedural safeguards” required that a criminal accused be informed of his right against self-incrimination (or to remain silent) as well as his right to counsel (or be appointed one in the proper case).  If a defendant was not advised of these rights, then any confession obtained as the result of questioning could not be used in the prosecution’s case.  In legal jargon, these “procedural safeguards” became known as Miranda rights, after the name of one of the criminal defendants in the landmark case, Ernesto Miranda.  Subsequent to the Miranda decision, police departments around the country began issuing cards specifically spelling out Miranda rights to their officers, to be read to individuals in police custody. 

An individual’s Miranda rights encompass two basic constitutional rights: the right against compelled self-incrimination (often referred to as “pleading the Fifth”) and the right to counsel.  Once in police custody, an individual has both the right to not speak to police, as well as the right to request the presence and assistance of an attorney during any subsequent questioning.  It bears noting that Miranda rights only attach when an individual is both in police custody and is subject to interrogation or a similar adversarial questioning practice.  Many police-citizen encounters may involve one of these prongs or invoke a similar situation, but Miranda is not required.  For instance, police are generally not required to render Miranda warnings when asking simple questions, during basic traffic stops (for speeding, DUI, seatbelt violations) or immediately after arresting an individual if no interrogation or questioning is conducted. 

As the Supreme Court recognized over fifty years ago in Miranda v. Arizona, knowledge of one’s constitutional rights during the criminal investigation and prosecution process is critically important.  If you are arrested or charged with a crime, know that the attorneys at Kane & Crowell Family Law Center are experienced in the criminal justice system and stand ready to protect your rights.  Call attorney Ashley Jackson at (615) 784-4801 for more information about legal representation in a criminal matter.    

Continue reading
  2857 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
2857 Hits
0 Comments

Divorce: What To Expect

 

Image: divorce word tile

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.  

Continue reading
  3589 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
3589 Hits
0 Comments

Understanding Criminal Law: Retirement vs. Dismissal

Image: gavel and judge's quarters

  If you have a criminal case, sometimes either a retirement or a dismissal may be obtained. The laws surrounding both can be confusing, so hiring an experienced criminal lawyer to navigate the system is often an advantage. Below is a brief summary of the two.

  A dismissal is exactly what it sounds like; your case is dismissed in its entirety. It is rare to walk away with an outright dismissal. However, an outright dismissal does happen on occasion, and having a local lawyer fighting on your behalf is a good step in that direction.

  A retirement, on the other hand, is a continuance with a dismissal at the end. Once the criminal case has been continued for some time, it is dismissed, as if it never occurred. A retirement may be conditioned upon certain factors being met. Further, at the end of a retirement, when the case is dismissed, a person is eligible to have their criminal record expunged.

  The difference between a retirement and a dismissal is that a dismissal completes your case right away, while a retirement dismisses your case after a set period of time. It is important to note that a retirement may also be conditioned upon certain requirements, including community service, probation, payment of fines, or other tasks, which must be completed before your case is dismissed.

  It is possible to have a criminal case andget a retirement, or even a dismissal. However, these results depend upon the facts of each case. Consulting an experienced local lawyer, who knows their way around the court system is a good start in that direction. Call us for a consultation at (615) 784-4800.

Continue reading
  1967 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
1967 Hits
0 Comments

Know Before You Post: Social Media, Search Warrants and Your Case

 
 
IMAGE
 
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
Continue reading
  2128 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
2128 Hits
0 Comments

Why Am I Required to Take a Parenting Class to Get a Divorce?

 Image: certificate of completion

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. 

 

 

Continue reading
  1780 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
1780 Hits
0 Comments

Implied Consent: Do You Know Your Rights?

   Image: an officer is writing a man a ticket

 

This topic has been trending lately due to the disturbing video of a Utah nurse being arrested for not drawing the blood of an unconcsious patient for an officer without a warrant that has gone viral. Many people are not sure what their rights are when it comes to constitutional searches and seizures.

  Have you ever had an officer ask if you "consent" to allowing them to do a search? Are you aware that without having probable cause to believe an offense was committed, officers are not allowed to conduct a search without a search warrant? As usual, there is an exception to this law. It is called the good faith exception. In Tennessee, officers are allowed to collect evidence that may otherwise be found to be inadmissible in court if they believed in good faith that all of the circumstances gave them probable cause to do so. 

    There are two types of consent: actual and implied. Actual consent is when you expressly give consent, either orally or by writing. Implied consent is when it appears from all of the circumstances that consent has been given. Tennessee has a statute (55-10-406) that allows an officer of the law to order a test to check the alcohol or drug levels in a driver's blood if they have reasonable grounds to believe the person was driving while under the influence. The officer must explain to the driver the consequences for refusing to allow such a test. The minimum penalty of refusing is loss of license for one year. If the driver still refuses to give actual consent to the test, the driver can be charged under this statute and the test can still be administered.

   Kane and Crowell attorney Ashley L. Jackson had the privilege of hearing oral arguments on this issue in front of the Tennessee Supreme Court in the case of State of TN v. Corrin Reynolds. Essentially, the issue in this case was whether the good faith exception trumps someone's constitutional rights to be free of illegal search and seizure. Does a blood test for drugs or alcohol count as a search? And, if so, is a warrant required to conduct that type of search? The Supreme Court decided that a warrantless blood draw violates a defendant's constitutional rights. However, the Court adopted the good faith exception that the evidence from a warrantless blood draw can still be used if the officer was acting in objectively good faith.

  If you are a defendant and have faced an unlawful search or seizure, let us advise you as to your rights and the next steps. Call us at (615) 784-4800.

Continue reading
  1890 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
1890 Hits
0 Comments

Step-Parent Adoption 101

 
Blog Post
 
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.
Continue reading
  1757 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
1757 Hits
0 Comments

Need Your Criminal Record Expunged? Here's How!

Image: Al Capone's Criminal Record  

 

For many people with a criminal record, their convictions affect future employment and business opportunities. For people charged with felonies, their criminal record prevents them from owning a firearm or traveling outside the country. Having a clean criminal record is also important due to many apartment and housing complexes requiring a background check before allowing a person to live there.

  In order to avoid all of the above obstacles, you should attempt to have your record expunged as soon as possible, depending on your case. Expungements in Tennessee are governed under the statute T.C.A. 40-32-101. This statute states that in order to be eligible for expungment, defendant must have:

  • No other convictions in any jurisdiction, 
  • Have completed all terms of probation, parole or imprisonment must be completed and 5 years must have lapsed since the completion of the sentence, 
  • Have met all conditions of release, 
  • Have a copy of the record of the conviction to be expunged, 
  • Have paid all fines, restitution and court costs, 
  • Conviction must be for a Class E felony included on the inclusion list or a misdemeanor not included on the exclusion list, and
  • A government issued ID. 
  The list of included and excluded offenses can be found on the Tennessee District Attorney's website: http://www.tndagc.com/expunge/Expungement%20Checklist.pdf.
 
  Once you find out if you are eligible for expungement, you must petition the court for an expungement.  A licensed attorney experienced in criminal law can assist you in having your criminal record expunged. Contact our office at (615) 784-4800 for assistance with your case.
Continue reading
  2287 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
2287 Hits
0 Comments

Establishing Paternity in TN

Parentage Photo

 

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.

Continue reading
  2034 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
2034 Hits
0 Comments

Lower Expungement Fee

A man fills out a form. 

 

In Tennessee, certain charges and convictions are eligible to be expunged, or erased, from your record…for a price. The previous fee to have your record expunged was $450.00. Many people could not afford to pay the expungement fee after having also paid court costs, fines and probation fees. Unfortunately for these individuals, charges and convictions would remain on their record simply because they did not have the funds required.

  Fortunately, that recently changed when Governor Haslam and the Tennessee Legislature reduced the expungement fee from $450.00 to $270.00. Hopefully this will make it easier for those with simple misdemeanors to start fresh with a clean record. Read more about the change here: http://www.newschannel5.com/news/haslam-signs-bill-reducing-costs-of-wiping-criminal-records

If you have questions about having your record expunged, call us at (615) 784-4801.

 

 

Continue reading
  1881 Hits
  0 Comments
Tags:
1881 Hits
0 Comments

New TN Laws – Will They Affect You?

blog

As of July 1, 2017, several new laws went into effect in Tennessee. Do any of the new laws affect you?

  • Penalties for being a convicted felon in possession of a gun can be increased, depending on the previous felony.
  • If you file for retroactive child support, you can only be awarded the prior 5 years’ child support unless the court finds good cause that another award is proper.
  • The offense of the unruly act of illegal use of a telecommunication device has been created. Watch what you do on your cell phone!
  • Don’t publicly release the residential address of a police officer. It’s a Class B Misdemeanor if negligent and a Class A Misdemeanor if intentional.
  • Property owners can put purple paint on their trees to serve as a no trespassing sign.

Read more here on all of the laws:

133 new Tennessee laws take effect July 1

Continue reading
  4842 Hits
  0 Comments
4842 Hits
0 Comments

Can I have my Marriage Annulled?

Can I have my Marriage Annulled?

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. 

Continue reading
  2640 Hits
  0 Comments
2640 Hits
0 Comments