Thursday, April 14, 2016

Going through the big "D" and don't mean Dallas?

  Although this post has a light-hearted title, the subject can be very heavy. 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 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, contact us to get answers to your questions and let us assist you in making the best decisions. (615) 890-2399 www.bestmurfreesborolawyer.com

Monday, April 4, 2016

Lower Penalties for Drugs and Higher Penalties for DUI? "YES" says TN House.

  Last week, the Tennessee House of Representatives approved a bill which would provide lighter penalties for some repeat drug offenders but increase penalties for repeat DUIs. HB1478 (http://www.capitol.tn.gov/Bills/109/Amend/HA0891.pdf)was approved by the House last Thursday after being presented by Sumner County Republican William Lamberth, who is a former prosecutor. The goal is to prevent those with addictions from being saddled with a felony for repeat offenses of certain drug charges. This bill would give people charged with their 3rd drug offense or greater 11 months and 29 days in jail and keep a felony off of their criminal record.

  The bill would also increase the penalty for those charged with the 5th DUI or greater, ensuring they serve more jail time. The maximum penalty someone convicted of a 6th DUI could serve is 15 years in prison. It seems the goal of this bill is to allow some mercy to those who have drug addictions, while ensuring habitual DUI offenders stay off the roads.

  It is not clear exactly when the Senate will vote on this bill but it could be as early as this week. Needless to say, if this is passed it will seriously affect all habitual drug and DUI offenders. Call us today if you have questions about any charges you may have.
(615) 890-2399 www.bestmurfreesborolawyer.com

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Establishing Paternity in TN

  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) 890-2399.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Need Your Criminal Record Expunged? Here's How!

 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
  • You must have 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. The form for the petition can be found on the Chancery Court's website: http://rcchancery.com/forms.htm. You must also pay the expungement fee to the appropriate court clerk's office. 

  A licensed attorney experienced in criminal law can assist you in having your criminal record expunged. Contact our office at (615) 890-2399 for assistance with your case.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Step-parent Adoption 101

   Blended families are sometimes hard to navigate. The goal of the courts is to keep families in tact. 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) 890-2399

Friday, October 2, 2015

Implied Consent: Do You Know Your Rights?

   Consent is another word for agree. 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.

   Recently, 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 is 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? 

   Until the Court makes a decision, Tennessee drivers are considered to have given implied consent to a blood test when they drive on Tennessee roads, so please understand your rights. If you refuse to consent to a test after you have been made aware of the consequences of refusal, you could be charged under the implied consent statute. 

Check out this article from the Tennessean for more coverage on this case.


Contact the Law Office of Joe M. Brandon, Jr. and Ashley L. Jackson to learn more about this issue. (615) 890-2399

Thursday, August 27, 2015

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

Everyone going through a divorce in Rutherford County, Tennessee is mandated 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. In Rutherford and Cannon Counties, the class is a one-time session of four hours. 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.)

There are two known places to attend class in Rutherford County, and one agency offers a reduced rate class in Brentwood, TN. The Family Center offers TransParenting, a nationally recognized program that is conducted by Master’s level mental health professionals. The fee for TransParenting is $45 in the Murfreesboro location, or the reduced rate location in Brentwood is $25. Several dates are available throughout the month, but classes there fill up quickly, so you must register and pay well in advance. Divorcing or separating parents must attend separate seminars, regardless of how congenial your case may be. They accept cash, money orders, and credit cards, but no checks. You may register and pay at www.familycentertn.org/sign-up or by calling (615) 890-4673. The office is located at 115 Heritage Park Drive, Murfreesboro, TN 37129. If you want to attend the reduced- rate class, know that spaces are limited to those with demonstrated financial need. You must contact Julia Todd at (615) 324-7526 or jtodd@bumc.net to register and pay. This class is held at Brentwood United Methodist Church, 309 Franklin Road, Brentwood, TN 37027.

The next provider in Murfreesboro is Lifebridge, and registration can be completed at www.lifebridgetn.com/register/events. They offer one or two classes per month in the Murfreesboro area, and locations vary. Space is limited to eight participants and registration is $50. For all locations, please do not bring your children, as no childcare is provided. You may bring drinks and snacks- there are no vending machines, but you will be given breaks throughout the course. Please bring your docket number in case that is needed for your certificate of completion. You will notice that classes are offered all over the mid-state area, with many in Davidson County, if that location is more convenient. Even if your divorce is in Rutherford/ Cannon, you are allowed to take the course outside of county, so long as it’s a court-approved course.