Blog & News
Our goal is to keep you educated about news related to family law in Tennessee. Check back here often for updates and blog posts from our attorneys.
It is becoming more and more common for unmarried people to have children. It was found by the Pew Research Center that the number of children born to unmarried parents rose from 5% to 41% in 50 years. Unmarried parents have the same rights to parenthood and child custody as parents who are married. The only difference is paternity has to be established before the parent can argue their rights in court. Paternity means fatherhood and establishing paternity means determining the child’s legal father, which includes the rights and obligations of the father to the child.
When a child is born and the parents are not married, sole custody automatically goes to the mother. Legally, the father is presumed to not be biologically related to the child and he has no right to see his child without a court order. While this is unfortunate, this also means the mother cannot put the father on child support at this time.
If the father desires visitation or custody rights of his child, he must establish paternity first. The easiest way to do this is to be present at the child’s birth and help fill out the birth certificate. If the father was not able to be on the child’s birth certificate, he can establish paternity by filling out a Voluntary Acknowledgement of Paternity form or by DNA testing.
Traditionally, the unmarried mother had to file a petition with the court to establish paternity in Tennessee. Now, petitions to establish parentage can be filed by the mother, father, child, presumed father, or government.
Once paternity has been established, the father has all rights and responsibilities of a parent. While establishing paternity may go smoothly in some cases, it does not always happen that way. After paternity is established, you may have to spend more time in court for child custody disputes, child support disputes, or another reason involving your paternity. It is important to have an experienced family law attorney by your side during this time to help guide you through the legal processes.
Are you a father that wants to be present in your child’s life but you have no legal rights to them? We may be able to help! At Murfreesboro Family Law, we will help you navigate through Tennessee’s detailed child custody and visitation laws, so you can focus on being the best father you can for your child. We specialize in child custody, child support, divorce, adoption, and grandparents’ rights. For more information on our services, contact us at (615) 890-3656.
Child support is one of the toughest things most couples have a hard time agreeing on during divorce or a parenting plan adjustment. In the state of Tennessee, there is a worksheet that is followed to help with this process. This worksheet is used by mediators, lawyers and the whole family court system when determining child support when an agreement cannot be made by the couple.
Your attorney will help you fill out this worksheet and help you navigate your child support wants and needs as you go through mediation with your child(ren)s other parent. For reference you can find the Tennessee child support calculator here https://www.tn.gov/humanservices/for-families/child-support-services/child-support-guidelines/child-support-calculator-and-worksheet-1.html. You can also download the app from the apple or android app stores which makes filling out the information even easier. Here are the criteria taken into consideration on the child support calculator:
- Nights spent with each parent (or a third party if your parenting plan has a third party)
- Income before taxes from both households
- Insurance expenses for child
- Reoccurring medical expenses for child
- Work related child care expenses for child
- Any other child support obligation of either parent
- Other dependent children within the home of either parent
- Previous deviations obligations
Once these criteria are plugged into a worksheet or into the app – you will have a good idea of where the child support numbers will be. Having an experienced family court lawyer with expertise in child support disputes and negotiations can help guide you on how to best prepare for your mediation and what you will need to provide for proof of expenses and income. Here are some other ways our experienced family law attorneys can help you with your child support case:
- Work with child support guidelines and the courts to arrive at an appropriate support amount.
- Handle your case involving allegations of failure to pay child support as well as defend child support petitions filed by another party and work to enforce child support orders through garnishments and other legal tools.
- Advocate for you by investigating and presenting your child’s history regarding special needs, special medical circumstances, your income, childcare expenses, child custody arrangements or other factors.
For more information or to discuss your case with one of our family law attorneys, give us a call at 615-890-3656. We are located at 119 N Maple St, Murfreesboro, TN 37130.
Divorces are complicated and they can be made even more complicated if your spouse does not want a divorce. Fortunately, you are not forced to remain married if you want out. If you take the four steps listed below properly, you can proceed with the divorce even if your spouse is being uncooperative.
1. Determine the grounds for divorce.
It is required that you give a reason in your petition for divorce in all US states. Tennessee offers both “fault” and “no-fault” divorces. In Tennessee, a no fault divorce means that neither spouse was at fault and both spouses agree on every aspect of their marital dissolution. For at fault divorces, there has to be proof that one spouse was at fault for adultery, abandonment, drug or alcohol addiction, two year separation (without minor children), physical abuse, etc.
2. Serve papers on the other party.
The next step after filing your petition is to notify your spouse by serving them the divorce paperwork. You can get a sheriff, process server, adult family member, or friend to serve your spouse. You can also send the paperwork by mail or publish a legal notice in your local newspaper if your spouse cannot be reached. All legal requirements for serving your spouse have to be met or you could risk having your spouse use it against you in court and have the proceedings blocked.
3. Wait the required number of days.
In the state of Tennessee, you will have to wait 30 days for a response from your spouse. The court will determine if the papers have been properly served and if the criteria is met, a court date will be set.
4. Ask for a default judgement.
If your spouse has still not signed the divorce papers, you can still move forward with the divorce. It is best to work with an experienced divorce attorney, like Murfreesboro Family Law, because you will have to go to court. A default judgement requires filing a request and appearing at a hearing to testify that you have met the filing requirements. If your spouse does not show up for the assigned court date, the judge can grant a default divorce.
Divorce is difficult, but we can help. If you are in the Middle Tennessee area, Murfreesboro Family Law can help you navigate through your divorce. We will guide you through the legal issues so that you can focus on moving forward with your life. For more information on our divorce services, contact us.
The holidays are a stressful time with all the Christmas shopping and family visits, but it can be even more stressful if you are going through a divorce during this time. Here are eight tips on how to navigate through divorce during the holidays:
1. Figure out the parenting schedule.
Avoid unnecessary conflict by already having your parenting schedule with your ex-spouse figured out. If you need a little assistance figuring out the schedule, CustodyXChange has a great resource and tips on dividing up time between you and your former spouse fairly.
2. Keep conflict away from your children.
Depending on their age, it can be hard for your children to understand that their parents are not together anymore and possibly do not get along. Do not speak negatively of your ex-spouse in front of the kids and keep conflicts between you and your ex-spouse away from them.
3. Be respectful towards your ex-spouse.
You and your spouse will likely have to come in contact with each other during the divorce. It can be difficult, but be respectful towards them, especially if the children are watching.
4. Be honest about what is going on.
Your children will eventually realize the severity of the situation. Be honest with your children about the divorce while keeping it respectful. Be honest about how you feel but do not let your emotions affect your children.
5. Let your children feel their natural emotions.
If your children are sad about their parents’ divorce, let them be sad. Do not try to force them to be happy. They will come around in time. To ease their minds a little, partake in fun holiday activities, watch holiday movies, or create new family traditions.
6. Don’t repress your feelings.
Whether you’ve known the divorce has been coming for a while or if it seemingly came out of nowhere, it can still be hard to come to terms with what is happening. It will be much more difficult to get through the divorce if you keep your feelings locked away, so allow yourself to feel anger and sadness but do not let those emotions control you.
7. Socialize with family and friends.
Being around loved ones is necessary during a time like this. Be sure to surround yourself with people who love and support you. Those frustrations that you can’t express around the kids, you can express to a family member or friend.
8. Do something for someone else.
Get your mind off of the divorce for a bit and spread holiday cheer to someone or a family that is less fortunate. Find a way to involve your children in whatever you do, whether that is giving to your favorite charity or helping out a family that cannot afford Christmas gifts this year. You will teach your children a great lesson about helping people in their times of need while you are going through a low point yourself.
Do not lose sight of what you are grateful for this holiday season. Divorce may seem like the end of the world for some but remind yourself that you have little ones and new experiences to live for. If you are in the Middle Tennessee area, Murfreesboro Family Law can help you navigate through your divorce. We will guide you through the legal issues related to your divorce so that you can focus on moving forward with your life. For more information on our services, contact us.
Divorce or any other circumstance that causes a disruption in custody and availability of a child to see their grandparents is devastating. When situations like divorce, death, separation, estrangement and/or abandonment happen, often times it’s grandparents that stand to lose the most. If your grandchild’s parents are making it difficult for you to visit, there are situations where you can sue for visitation rights. However, in Tennessee the laws on this issue are complicated.
First you will have to prove grandparent standing. Tennessee law states that grandparents must have standing under the following circumstances:
- One of the child’s parents have died
- Child’s parents are divorced, separated or were never married
- One of the child’s parents have gone missing for at least 6 months
- The child resided with the grandparent for a minimum of six months prior to a parent removing the child from their home. If grandparents asked the parent to take the child or asked the parent to leave resulting in the child leaving, that’s different.
A child does not have to have lived with the grandparent to have legal standing in the state of Tennessee — if grandparent can prove a substantial existing relationship for at least one year, and then the parent chose not to allow the child to have access to the grandparent for reasons other than abuse or endangerment. That loss of contact could cause the grandchild significant emotional damage — especially if the grandparent was the primary caregiver for the child for a significant amount of time. On the contrary, if the grandchild had little to no contact with grandparent and had not established a significant relationship with the grandparent, visitation rights are much harder to gain in the state of Tennessee.
If your situation can meet any of these above standards the next step would be petitioning the court. Our family law attorneys would walk you through what the process looks like and petition the court on your behalf.
As in all family court cases involving children, the court will look at the child’s best interest, keeping in mind that older children will be given a chance to speak their preference in such a decision. Other factors that are considered in the child’s best interest are parental unfitness, if a grandparent is the parent of a deceased parent and the good faith of the grandparent.
In the end, grandparent’s rights in Tennessee are complicated. If you are curious about your rights and want to discuss your potential case to sue for visitation rights, give us a call. Our family law attorneys are experienced in grandparents right’s laws in Tennessee and have the history with the courts to help you better understand where your claim stands and how we can help you achieve your goal.
Adoptions often times can be a confusing legal process, but there’s good news – Murfreesboro Family Law is here to help you navigate all of it! Our experienced family law attorneys can answer all of your legal questions throughout the process. Adoption laws very depending on the state you’re dealing with, so it’s crucial you are aware of the laws that affect your specific situation.
We know you’re interested in the legal process of adoption, adoption is a time in a couples lives that is exciting but a little scary too. We get it. Just as much as you have things you want to know, as adoption attorneys there are things we want adopting parents to know too – and things that aren’t just itemizations and costs.
1. “Be patient.”
Adoption is a complicated process with So..Many..Steps! It can take some time to complete your adoption and the best thing you can do for you, us and baby is be patient. You’ll need to expect wait times when it comes to finding an adoption opportunity, receving ICPC clearance, meeting the residency requirements, etc. Patience during this time can be hard, we get it, but it can be one of the most helpful things to bring about a more positive adoption experience.
2. “Read what our attorneys and your agency sends you.”
A lot of the questions you need answer to, are answered if you read all of your mail and emails from your adoption agency and from us. Adoption Professionals put a lot of time and effort into the materials we provide and send to you — based off of years of experience.
3. “Complete your home study and supervisory visits in a timely manner.”
We talked about patience, here is something you can focus on to help pass the waiting. Make sure you finalize all your requirements for your adoption. If you’re not updating the requirements as needed, your adoption could be delayed and that would create unnecessary waiting. Make sure to plan and complete requirements in a timely manner.
4. “ICPC takes time, and we are moving as fast as we can. “
We understand how frustrating it can be to have your adoptive child placed with you but because the adoption is not finalized, being unable to return home to your normal lives. We want you to know, we want you to go home too — we are moving as fast as we can. Our family law attorneys will do all that we can to expedite the process and get you home and enjoying your new son or daughter soon!
5. “After the adoption finalization, some states take months to send the amended birth certificate.”
Amended birth certificates can take a long time to be delivered to you in many states. If there is an immediate need for the new birth certificate for things like a passport, you will need to let your attorney know as soon as possible. Without letting your attorney know, you could be using a lot of patience up waiting for that birth certificate.
Most of all remember your adoption attorney is on your side. We want to do everything we can to make your adoption experience a positive one. Listen to our advice and suggestions and understand we try to make the process as easy for you as possible letting you focus on what truly matters — bringing home your child.
The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown a lot of blended families a curve ball, separated and divorced coparents are dealing with unprecedented and frightening circumstances right now. We decided to write some tips to help your family deal with the current situation, here are our tips and ideas for coparenting during this pandemic.
Most importantly —Stick to your parenting plan, if possible
Court orders stand unless you and the other parent mutually agree to make changes, or it is impossible to adhere to it (like travel cancellations). So far, and during the “stay-at-home” orders we have already seen this year, local governments have allowed for parents to travel for custody exchanges. Make sure if you and your coparent do come to a mutual decision regarding a change in your situation during this pandemic — PUT IT IN WRITING. Make sure the agreement is well written, and all parties sign and agree to the change in the plan and the duration in which these changes will last. Details written into changes if a parent is not getting their normal parenting time, like phone calls and texts, online games, etc… should be written down in the new agreement so there is no confusion on the contact that each parent is going to have with the child.
Your households are connected, even though they’re not together.
As a blended family we always have to remember that even though our homes are no longer together, that they’re still connected. With children going between both homes now during this pandemic, we need to remember this. What is done or not done in one home can endanger the members of the other household and who they come in contact with regularly. Trying to accept the safety measures in your home may not be identical to those in the other and that is – okay. With many other situations co-parents have to deal with we need to have open communication with our coparents about health and safety and trust that just because safety measures may look different — though situations may be different — that each home is doing their best to keep everyone safe and healthy. Most importantly avoid sending the message to the kids that your home is safer than their other home. Help your children to understand the differences there may be in circumstance between the two homes making safety measures different but that they are safe in both places.
Define what public health recommendations and restrictions mean in your household and with your coparent
Translating general health advice to your kids in ways they can understand is important. Instead of just social distancing, what does that look like as a child? No playdates, no travel, etc.. what does safety precautions look like in your family specifically? It is also a good idea if you have a healthy coparenting situation to discuss and make a plan with your coparent about the kids. If you can come to an amiable agreement together on ways to support each other and help the other parent feel confidant when it’s not their custody time it could help congruency and for all family members to feel safe and in more control during this time.
Communicate with your coparent often
With the ever changing environment we are all living in with COVID-19 it could cause frequent changes in our lives. It is important to keep your coparent up to date on any of these changes. Loss of job, working from home, going back to the office, changes at school, sick family members, etc… sending emails to update your coparent is an effective way to keep them up to date on what is changing and prevents the children from feeling the pressure of relaying the message of what is going on in their lives.
It would also be a good idea to have a plan of action with your coparent should someone in either household become ill with the virus. What would the child care situation look like, how will custody adjust during quarantine time, etc… During emergencies and crises, many parents find they are able to cooperate in ways they’ve never been able to before. Remember to give your coparent the benefit of the doubt during this time.
Call a professional if a significant parental conflict arises
We understand with all that is going on anxieties and worries are high which can in many cases lead to a significant dilemma or conflict. Should you face this with your coparent, your attorney may be able to resolve the issue quickly and reach a stipulation through your coparents legal counsel.
Remember, this is not forever
This pandemic will not last forever, it is temporary. Things will eventually get back to normal, and under control and coparenting will get back into the swing of things. Until then remember, any adjustments that need to be made will go back to normal, this is a great time to model healthy coping skills and resiliency for your children.
Murfreesboro Family Law attorneys are working daily with old and new clients on how to navigate COVID19 and coparenting. Going through divorce or separation adds to the stress of this time, but we are here to help you navigate and do the best you can for your children during this time. If you have questions, would like to have a consult with one of our attorneys or need immediate conflict solution related to the pandemic please call our Murfreesboro, TN offices at 615-890-3656.
Considering adoption in Murfreesboro? Adoption attorneys are required for all adoptions— independent or through an agency. If you choose to use only an adoption attorney and not go through an agency, it is considered an independent adoption. Independent adoptions are ideal for birth parents and adoptive parents that have already matched. Going through an adoption agency is best for expectant parents considering adoption or prospective adoptive parents.
Adoptions can be very stressful but having an adoption attorney by your side can help ease some of the stress. They will handle all of the legal matters like filing paperwork, attending consultations and home studies, reviewing legal agreements, and most importantly, finalizing the adoption.
Pros of having an adoption attorney:
- The adoption process is simplified. Independent adoptions have fewer requirements for the adoptive parents.
- Independent adoptions are less expensive than going through an adoption agency.
- If problems arise during the adoption process, your lawyer will represent you in court.
- There are typically no waiting lists. Some adoption agencies limit the amount of families they work with and create waiting lists. With an adoption attorney, there will be no waiting lists, meaning the process will move faster.
Whether you choose to go through an adoption agency or solely work with an adoption attorney, it is your choice. They each have their own advantages and disadvantages. It really just depends on your situation and how much knowledge you have about the adoption process.
We understand that adoption can be a difficult and emotionally draining process, but it all boils down to doing what is best for the child or children. If you are prospective parents looking to adopt or birth parents trying to find the right family for your child, Murfreesboro Family Law is here to help. At Murfreesboro Family Law, we specialize in adoption, child custody / support, and divorce. For more information, give us a call at (615) 890-3656 or visit our website www.murfreesborofamilylaw.com.
Summer break is here and so is time for that dreaded custody exchange. If you are the parent sending your children to the other home, you may feel sad that your children will be away for a while or reluctant to let them stay at the other home because you do not get along with the other parent or step parent. If you are “receiving” the children, you may feel excited that you get to see your children again or nervous that they will have trouble readapting to you and your home.
Tips for “receiving” the child or children for summer break:
- Do not compete with the other home. Buying the children costly gifts or taking them on expensive vacations to win their love will backfire eventually. Try spending quality time with your children instead. It will be beneficial for both them and you in the end.
- If there is a step parent in the picture, they might need to reconnect with the children. It may feel like starting over, but if there are long periods of time in between custody exchanges, the kids will probably need to reconnect with their step parent. If they want to spend time with the step parent, let them. If they are distant towards the step parent, find ways to connect with them without forcing it.
- Do not make the children feel guilty for speaking affectionately about those in the other home.
- If the children complain or make negative comments about those in the other home, be sure to hear the other parent’s side of the story first before passing judgement.
Tips for sending your kids off for summer break:
- Plan a call or in person talk with the other parent to set a calendar and iron out travel details.
- Tell your children to have a great time. Giving your children “permission” to enjoy their time at the other home will absolve them of any guilt or fear they may feel with going to the other home.
- It is okay to feel sad over your children’s absence, but do not burden your children with your grief. Missing your children is normal, but do not openly display your sadness to them. It could cause unnecessary stress for your children.
- Stay in touch with your children, but do not contact them excessively.
Custody exchanges are not ideal, but many families find the best routine to fit with their lifestyles. If you are recently divorced and need help navigating through child custody, Murfreesboro Family Law is here to help. At Murfreesboro Family Law, we specialize in child custody and support, divorce, and adoption. For more information, give us a call at (615) 890-3656 or visit our website www.murfreesborofamilylaw.com.