An Uncontested, Stress-Free Divorce in Tennessee

Tennessee law allows a process for divorce that significantly reduces the emotional burden and the expense of protracted litigation. You do not have to have an attorney to file for divorce. However, proceed with caution if you are filing without legal representation. Make sure you do not agree to something you will later regret.

Here is a quick overview of the process of an uncontested divorce.

Who Qualifies for Uncontested Divorce?

Not everyone qualifies for Tennessee’s streamlined uncontested divorce procedure. Both you and your husband or wife must meet the following requirements:

  • You both lived in the state for the last six months
  • You have no minor children born of the marriage
  • Both of you agree to dissolve your marriage
  • You own no business or real estate together and have no retirement accounts
  • You have reached a full personal property settlement agreement

If any single one of the above requirements is not met, you do not qualify for Tennessee’s uncontested divorce procedure. If you do not qualify but still want an affordable, painless divorce, we have 3 divorce services designed specifically for you.

If you and your spouse meet all of the listed requirements, you can begin the filing process. Before you do, be sure to read How To Get An Agreed Divorce In Tennessee. This form was put together by the state to educate people the procedure.

Starting the Process

The divorce case is filed in the county that you live in. If you have already separated, and you live in separate counties, you can bring the action in either county. The following completed forms must be filed to begin the divorce process:

  • The divorce petition
  • Spousal personal information form
  • Personal property settlement agreement
  • Health insurance notice
  • Divorce hearing notice

Some counties might require additional paperwork pursuant to local rules. Be sure to check with your county’s court clerk to be sure of exactly what forms are needed. You can either print all necessary forms off of the internet, or you can go to your local court clerk’s offices to pick up an uncontested divorce form package. Any additional forms that might be required in your county will likely be in that package.

How Long Does It Take?

There will be a minimum of 60 days between date of filing and date of hearing. The court clerk in your county will schedule you for the first available date. He or she wants your divorce finalized too.

Do I Have To Go To The Divorce Hearing?

The presiding judge might have questions for both of you, so both parties should be present at the divorce hearing. If your paperwork is in order on your hearing date, you could be divorced that day. On the other hand, you might leave the hearing still married. The divorce does not become final until the judge signs off on your decree.

Parents’ Guide To Cyberbullying and the Law

What Is Cyberbullying

Bullying has always been an unfortunate part of the adolescent experience. Although discouraged by parents and teachers, most of us probably have memories of being intimidated by schoolyard bullies. However, in the old days, kids left their bullies behind when they left school for the day. But today, thanks to the internet and social media, many kids sadly take bullying home with them when they leave the school grounds.

Online bullying – or, as it has come to be known, cyberbullying – can often take a more vicious edge than the schoolyard taunts of yore. Once a group has identified a peer who they deem worthy of their vitriol, they will frequently be relentless, going so far as to create Facebook groups and entire pages devoted to harassing and mocking their chosen victim.

In some instances cyberbullying escalates to terrible levels, well beyond the bounds of anything that can be written off as “kids will be kids” behavior, and becomes a criminal offense. Over 90% of teens on social media have witnessed someone being mean to someone else on social media, and over 21% of teens check in on social media just to see if anyone has said anything mean about them. This infographic from rawhide.org shows a number of shocking statistics about cyberbullying.

In case you find your son or daughter faced with this situation, here are a few things you should know about cyberbullying and the law.

Cyberbullying Laws Vary State By State

Dealing with internet crime is still very new for legislators. While many states were slow to include electronic harassment in their definition of bullying, approximately 50% of states now include language in their bullying laws that make cyberbullying a crime. If your child is being cyberbullied, familiarize yourself with the laws of your state.

School Administrators Might Claim No Responsibility

Sadly, many school administrators will claim that they are not responsible if your child is being bullied. This is because they claim that the bullying is happened online and that the internet is off school grounds. If the administration refuses to step in and help, then you have no choice but to circumvent them and contact an attorney.

A Lawyer Can Help You Through The Process

Making a harassment case should always be done with the aid of a competent attorney. Your lawyer will be able to help you to document instances of abuse and advise you on how to file a police report. If the cyberbullying is very severe, your attorney will aid you in seeking protection orders on behalf of your child against the offender(s).

Standing Your Ground Is Crucial

If your child is being bullied, standing your ground and taking legal action is absolutely the best course of action. Many bullies are enabled by parents who fail to discipline them and a lack of a fear of consequences for their actions. Seeking an attorney and taking legal action demonstrates that the bully’s behavior will not be tolerated and that serious consequences are a possibility.

No parents want to see their child tormented. This is why it is essential that you seek legal representation if a group of kids are making your child’s life unhappy or causing him or her to feel unsafe. Follow the proper legal channels and take a stand against cyberbullying.

School Bullies and Your Options

No one wants to see their child get bullied at school, but what should a parent do if they feel like they can’t protect their child? Sending your kid off to school knowing there is a bully waiting for their arrival can be difficult, but knowing what to do to handle the situation can be even harder.

Here are some steps you can take, and some things you should avoid, to ensure that your child remains safe:

Do Not Approach the Bully’s Parents

It may seem a logical first step, but talking to the bully’s parents rarely ends well. Parents do not like to hear that their child is a bully anymore than they like to hear that their child is being bullied, so confronting someone with the notion that their child is a bad apple never ends well.

If the bully’s parents are abusive, informing them of their child’s bad behavior could be a trigger for more abuse for the child or the parents may even attack you.

Get All the Info

Before you do anything, be sure you know all the facts. Ask your child to inform you about what the bully is doing, if they are bullying anyone else, and where the bullying takes place. When you know all the information, a discussion with a professional will be easier.

Get the School Involved

The best help you can receive if your child is being bullied is from the school board. Talk with your child’s teachers and the school principal about what is happening to your child and what can be done to stop it from happening again.

Be sure to get a written document outlining what will be done to address the bullying situation. While you may trust that the school principal will do their best to get the bullying to stop, having it in written form allows you to hold them to it if they do not perform.

Take Legal Action

In some cases, legal action is necessary to get your child’s bullying to stop. If your child is being threatened, law enforcement should become involved as quickly as possible. Furthermore, if the school system is not performing to their agreed upon duties or is otherwise not addressing the bullying situation, you can file a Notice of Harassment. Contact a lawyer to discuss all of your legal options and find the best, fastest solution to your child’s bullying problem.

It is important to know how to recognize bullying and what you can do to stop it. Do not allow your child to live in fear, and do not feel like you have no recourse for action. There are legal means to stand up against bullying if the institutions you look to for support cannot handle it.

How To Handle Criminal Charges When You Are Wrongly Accused

Being an innocent person who is on the receiving end of an accusation can be devastating. Presumption of innocence dictates that the burden of proof is on the prosecution to prove guilt. However, being innocent does not mean that you can rest easy after being charged. You must be prepared to fight to prove your innocence if possible and you must find a flaw in the prosecution’s case against you.

Try to Stop the Charges From Being Filed

The first step that any defendant should take is contacting an attorney. You should not utter a word that may be used against you in court. Instead of arguing your case to arresting officers or at the police station on your own, request to use your right to an attorney to contact a reputable criminal defense attorney.

Your attorney can try to stop the prosecution from filing the charges in the first place, particularly if there errors in the police report or it is missing key information. Some cases never get filed because a conversation between the defense attorney and the prosecutor reveals that there really is no winnable case for the prosecution. While it is unlikely, preventing the filing is the surest, fastest, and least expensive outcome.

Dismissal Before Trial

If the prosecution does file the charges, the case can still be dismantled before it goes to court. Anything such as failure to read Miranda Rights, lack of a search warrant or other procedural errors will give the attorney leverage on the prosecution. The prosecution may then drop the charges after it faces the reality that they will not be able to sustain a case that developed erroneously. Your defense attorney will have to make a judgment call as to whether or not to bring any information to the prosecution’s attention in pre-trial communication.

Going to Trial

If you are wrongly accused and the case goes to trial, there may be additional opportunities for the truth to come to light. False accusations are harder to sustain over long timeframes, new evidence may present itself that clears your name, or your attorney may be able to establish reasonable doubt during the trial process.

Many options are available for innocent defendants. The most important thing you can do is to take the charges seriously from the get go and hire an attorney to represent your best interests. An experienced attorney can truly turn things around and help clear your name. The last thing you want is to end up on a list like this: 10 Infamous Inmates Who Were Wrongly Convicted.

7 Ways to Save Money During a Divorce

Getting a divorce is expensive. I’m sure you have heard horror stories. We all have. As a divorce lawyer, I can tell you that unfortunately, those stories come true more often than you’d like to think. However, there is good news: you can follow a few simple steps to save money during a divorce.

Manage Spending During Divorce Process

Reduce Attorney Fees

Yes, getting a divorce costs money – there is no way around that – but you do not have to spend an arm and a leg on lawyer fees. It might seem crazy for me, a divorce attorney, to encourage you to spend less with your lawyer, but that’s exactly why I offer affordable, set pricing for 3 of the most common kinds of divorce.

If you are paying by the hour, reduce costs by preparing yourself before consulting with your lawyer. Just having your documents and questions in order will put you ahead of the curve.

Do Not Indulge in Emotional Shopping

Times of high stress and high emotion often lead people to binge shop. Some people are encouraged to spend all they can during the divorce, especially if they have access to joint bank accounts or credit cards. The reality is that spending sprees will leave you with less at the end and may come back to bite you when assets are being divvied up.

Fight for Your Assets (And Recognize That No One Wins)

Forget About Emotional Entitlement

Along with emotional spending, another strong emotional reaction during a divorce is emotional entitlement. Be careful not to give up too much when fighting for one prized possession. You can always buy new things.

You will both walk away feeling like you’ve lost something important

The reality of divorce is that it comes down to compromise, and you will both feel like you have lost something. You may want to fight for the iTunes collection that you painstakingly curated over the years, but if the collection is worth $400 and it costs you $1,000 in legal fees and compromises to fight for it, then it is time to walk away.

Do Not Leave Anything on the Table

While you need to know when to walk away from a costly fight over a possession, you also need to fight for your entire half. Assets and debts are equally shared in marriage. Sometimes one party will feel obligated to take less than their share during the divorce out of sympathy or guilt. While it might seem like the charitable thing to do in the short-term, in the long run, leaving money on the table often seems foolish.

Plan for Post-Divorce Costs

Assets with High Maintenance

If you got the house in the divorce, you may have won the biggest battle. However, maintaining a house comes with its own costs. As you consider your post-divorce life, do not forget to account for things like real estate taxes, insurance, and general home repair and maintenance. It adds up quickly.

Plan for Taxes

Consult an accountant or financial advisor if you have one about the tax implications of your divorce. You do not want to get hit with an unexpected, large bill from the IRS.

Going through a divorce is difficult enough without overspending on the process. Keep these tips in mind to help stay on track and on budget. If you need professional advice, contact my office to setup an initial consultation.

Can Victims of Crime Sue Perpetrators?

If you have ever been the victim of a violent crime, you might be wondering what recourse you have. Violent crime victims are often left physically and emotionally harmed, but they can also experience significant financial loss. To make matters worse, victims often see their perpetrators walk free due to insufficient evidence.

Even when the courts rule in their favor, victims are still left paying for the damages on their own. This leaves them feeling lost and confused. It is important for victims to fully understand the options that are available to them. Most are unaware that they can sue their perpetrator to compensate for their loss.

When Can Victims Sue

Even when victims are aware of the possibility of taking legal action, they are not sure when they can do it. They believe they have no recourse if they lose in court and their perpetrator goes free. But you can sue even if the courts find the other party innocent in the criminal proceeding.

Most victims are unaware that civil cases are separate from criminal cases, which is what makes it possible to sue. But to succeed, you must have evidence of financial loss or emotional damage; therefore, you must pursue your case as soon as possible. As time goes by, your chance of winning is diminished. The most famous recent examples of this were the criminal and civil cases against O.J. Simpson in the 90s.

How to Sue

When you want to pursue a civil case for damages accrued due to criminal activity, it is vital you know the proper steps to take. If you have not already done so, you must file a report with local law enforcement. Next, you need to contact a lawyer and present your evidence. Many people make the mistake of not hiring the right lawyer for the task.

It is vital you ensure the lawyer you hire is experienced in retrieving compensation for crime victims, which optimizes your chance of success. You lawyer will prepare your case and present it. Next, you and the perpetrator will go before a jury or a judge. If you can display sufficient evidence, the court will likely rule in your favor, and you will receive the compensation you deserve.

Final Thoughts

Being the victim of a crime can cause anxiety and depression, and it can leave you feeling lost and confused. It is vital you take the proper steps to ensure you retrieve compensation for your damages; otherwise, you will likely get stuck paying for property damage or medical bills out of your own pocket. You must first report the crime and hire a lawyer. Your lawyer will help you prepare your case and present your evidence to a judge.

When The Police Fail To Read Your Miranda Rights

In March of 1963, a man named Ernesto Miranda was arrested by the Phoenix Police Department. After an attempt to use his written confession at trial, his court-appointed attorney objected. The case reached the Supreme Court of the United States, where Miranda’s conviction was overturned on the grounds he had not been properly advised of his rights against self-incrimination.

Now, over fifty years later, there are few who do not recognize the words “you have the right to remain silent.” Many can recite their rights from memory, largely due to the frequent use of them in scripts for police dramas.

Fifth Amendment

Under the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment, no person can be compelled to testify against himself. This is the basis for the right to remain silent. A suspect has the right to refuse to answer questions both in police custody and at trial. This right, combined with the Sixth Amendment’s right to counsel, is one of the most powerful rights a criminal defendant has.

Right Not Privilege

The Supreme Court’s rulings make advising a criminal suspect of their rights mandatory in all fifty states. Anyone in custody or facing interrogation and especially someone who has already been arrested must be “Mirandized” or read their rights and advised they have a right to counsel and to have an attorney present during questioning. Because these rights are so important, the failure to observe them can have consequences.

Excluded Evidence

If the police fail to advise a suspect of their rights in a situation where they are required to do so, any evidence they gain from questioning that suspect and possibly any evidence they gather as a result of what they learn by questioning that suspect can be excluded by the judge at trial. Occasionally this can result in a dismissal of charges, especially if the police were relying on a suspect’s confession as the key evidence to convict.

Exceptions

Occasionally, statements by a person who later becomes a suspect can be admitted into evidence despite the fact the person questioned was not advised of their rights. While this is a fairly standard exception to the rule, police have to tread a very thin line to avoid the appearance they are trying to manipulate the law to obtain evidence they otherwise would not have.

Despite the entertaining notion “the right to remain silent” was made up by an ambitious script writer, it is a central protection for anyone accused of a crime, and its purpose is to help guarantee the innocent will not be successfully prosecuted for a crime they did not commit.

What Mistake of Law Means in a Criminal Case

The common saying that “ignorance is bliss,” does not apply when talking about ignorance of the law in a criminal case. The difference between “mistake of law” and “mistake of fact” is an important concept for understanding the mechanics of a criminal defense. Although mistake of fact can be a valid defense to a criminal charge, a mistake of law is typically not.

What is a Mistake of Law

A mistake of law is when a person does something that is illegal but states that he did not know the act was illegal at the time. The law does not allow this person to escape criminal liability with this excuse, except for very rare exceptions. The underlying expectation is that everyone is aware of the law of the land and cannot plead ignorance of the law as an excuse for criminal activity. These are some of the rare exceptions where a mistake of law defense may apply. It is important to note that these exceptions may not apply in all jurisdictions, which is why it is recommended to consult with an attorney if you have been charged with a crime.

Reversed Court Decisions

If the defendant can prove that he relied on information from the government, and in particular a court decision that was overturned before the defendant committed the illegal act, then a mistake of law defense may apply.

Specific Intent Requirements

This situation typically involves violations of the tax code, such as willfully filing a false income tax return. Because of the complex nature of the tax code and the requirement that the defendant understand that he was violating the code at the time of the filing, proving that you had no knowledge of the requirement or misunderstood its application, can be a valid defense for a tax code violation.

Conspiracy

Conspiracy means that the defendant was involved with a group of people that intended to work together to commit and illegal act. The crime of conspiracy requires that the defendant understand that the ultimately activity was illegal, so if the defendant can prove he had no knowledge of that, then he may have a valid defense.

While there are other scenarios where a mistake of law defense may apply, this is an extremely limited defense, which must be proven by the defendant in order to excuse him from liability of a crime. It is important to consult with an attorney if you think any of these situations may apply to you.

Is DNA Evidence Living Up To Its Promise?

For years, DNA evidence has been considered the decisive factor in forensic cases. On many occasions DNA has proven suspects guilty or helped to prove their innocence. With so much in the news lately about DNA evidence, we had to ask: is it living up to its promise? With all the publicity surrounding the Making a Murderer documentary regarding the convictions of Steve Avery, one certainly cannot dismiss that this once powerful piece of evidence is suddenly back under the microscope.

What is DNA

DNA is the code that determines a person’s physical attributes, such as hair and eye color. During a criminal investigation, DNA samples are collected and analyzed. These DNA samples are then compared to the DNA samples of possible suspects. If the DNA collected at the crime scene matches the DNA of a suspect, the samples are deemed “quality”. The sample is then used as evidence, and the suspect convicted for the crime.

Is DNA Evidence Reliable

DNA evidence may not be as reliable as once believed. For example, in the case of Lukis Anderson, his DNA was transferred to a location he had never visited. While Anderson was at a local hospital, the paramedics who admitted him inadvertently transferred another person’s DNA onto him. As it turns out, the DNA was that of a murder victim, Raveesh Kurma. When police found the DNA on Anderson, he was arrested. The case appeared to be closed and Anderson was sent to prison for a crime he did not commit. Luckily, the truth was discovered five months later, and Anderson was released.

DNA Fabrication

In addition to DNA being easily transferred, it can also be fabricated. Israeli scientists published a paper in 2009 outlining how DNA evidence can be counterfeited, and that it is not impossible to create a fake DNA profile. In addition, if a suspect’s DNA is found at the scene of a crime, it is still not indisputable evidence of their guilt.

With this in mind, we have to ask, do you think DNA evidence should still be admissible in court?

Post-Divorce Checklist

Going through a divorce can be a difficult process. Once the process is complete and the divorce is final, you can finally breath a sigh of relief. However, there are still some more steps that you must take in order to follow the provisions of the divorce. These steps will also help to secure the legal and financial aspects of your life as a single person.

Checklist Criteria

The following is a helpful checklist of the steps that remain after a divorce. While every step may not necessarily apply to you, there may be some of these items that are of the utmost importance to get done immediately.

  • Divide any property as your divorce papers state.
  • Remove your ex-spouse’s name from the mortgage title or lease if necessary.
  • Have a quitclaim deed executed that will transfer the title of property to your spouse as directed by the divorce papers. Your ex-spouse will need to do the same as directed.
  • Be sure that your name has been removed from debts or loans that you are no longer responsible for.
  • Update your auto insurance policy to reflect new drivers or address changes.
  • Update the title for any vehicles that you have retained ownership of after the divorce.
  • If your name has changed after your divorce, notify any creditors that you may have.
  • Visit the Social Security Administration to update your name change.
  • Update your driver’s license to reflect your name change.
  • Change your address on your driver’s license if you have moved.
  • Notify all creditors that your address has changed if you have moved from the marital home.
  • Update your bank information with your new name and address.
  • Remove your ex-spouse’s name from any bank information.
  • Remove your ex-spouse from your credit cards or apply for credit in your name only.
  • Update the beneficiary on your life insurance policy if you are able to by your divorce decree.
  • Keep any employer informed of information they may need to know about your divorce such as court-ordered support.
  • Pay any alimony or child support on time.
  • Write a new will.

While it may take some time to adjust to your new life, the above steps can help you through that process. If you have any questions, it is important to contact a professional divorce attorney to schedule a consultation.