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Cole Law Group Blog

Attorney Todd Cole in East Germany 1989

I stopped studying the German language in 1987 after making a somewhat embarrassing semantical error.  As my college major required a language competency, I chose to switch to the Scandinavian language of my forebears.  This decision, in turn, led me to schedule my junior year abroad at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.  As part of that program, I studied Scandinavian government, economics, history and culture.  I was also, as a Danish university student, given the opportunity to travel behind the Iron Curtain and visit the countries of Poland, East Germany, USSR (Russia), Latvia, and Lithuania. 

I entered Poland in October 1989 from the sea.  Denmark and Poland had established a joint ferry service which alternated trips between the countries using Polish and Danish ferries.  As our vessel traversed the Baltic Sea, the weather began to worsen and, as the Poles could not afford stabilization systems on their ferries, the ship began to pitch back and forth, at times rather violently.  To my surprise, this did not detour the majority of the passengers from entering the duty-free shop below deck where they were tossed about while trying to purchase various consumer goods (cigarettes, liquor, cosmetics, etc). 

Cole Law Group BlogThis article addresses why you should draft a Last Will and Testament, the legal requirements for a valid will under Tennessee law, and different provisions to consider when drafting a will. It is commonly said that only two things are certain in life. One of those things is taxes, and you probably already know what the other one is.

No one is required to have a will. A Last Will and Testament is designed to give legal protection to a person’s estate  before that person dies, and the content of a will goes beyond what applies by the default operation of the law. A legitimate will directs the Probate Court as to how a decedent’s estate should be closed according to the wishes of the deceased. Individuals without a will are termed to have died intestate. An intestate estate is distributed in accordance with Tennessee law.1

People have different opinions as to whether or not to draft a will. Those that do draft a will may differ with regard to what provisions should be used and who should receive what dispensations. Some people put lots of thought into giving gifts through a will to relatives, friends, non-profits, schools, parks, or other organizations. Others simply wish to leave all of their possessions to their closest family members.  Creative thought can be put into a will to leave a person’s assets in many different ways after their death.

sofia trefilova-martin cole lawCourt interpreters play an extremely important role in the judicial system. Whether it is a court hearing, a deposition, or simple translation of a court document, a court interpreter acts as a bridge between a non-English speaker and the Court.

In today’s society, the services of a court interpreter are in high demand in the State of Tennessee. According to the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts, in the year 2018, there were 16,215 processed court interpreter claims.

I have been a registered Russian Court Interpreter for the State of Tennessee since January 2019. As a child in Russia and for as long as I can remember, I wanted to become an interpreter. I had an interest in studying foreign languages and could see myself  traveling throughout the world while working with various companies as an interpreter. However, the demand for interpreters in Russia had drastically decreased by the time I began my college career. Therefore, I decided to pursue a career in Legal Studies and graduated magna cum laude from Chadron State College in the United States. I subsequently moved to Tennessee and am currently working as a paralegal at Cole Law Group in Brentwood.

NATO's Enhanced Forward Prensence

For those of you who have read Paul’s blogs, worked with him on a case, or wish to retain him as your counsel regarding a military law matter, you may have noticed that he has recently been absent from the office. As noted in his attorney profile on our website, Paul attended the United States Military Academy at West Point and subsequently gained extensive military experience that included challenging training exercises overseas in Korea and Germany. He then received his Juris Doctor from Vanderbilt Law while continuing to serve our country as an officer in the Tennessee Army National Guard. Upon passing the Tennessee Bar, Paul joined Cole Law Group as an associate attorney and pursued his passion to build a military law practice to serve military members as well as veterans.

This summer Paul was called up for active duty by the U.S. Army and deployed to Bemowo Piskie, Poland, where he is currently in command of 105 soldiers in support of NATO’s Enhanced Forward Presence (eFP) Battle Group Poland. The eFP provides a responsive and flexible military capability to respond to any aggressive act as part of NATO’s overall deterrence and defensive posture. 

Battle Group Poland is a multinational battle group, comprised of U.S., U.K., Croatian and Romanian soldiers that will serve alongside the host nation’s 15th Mechanized Brigade as a defense and deterrence force.

Cole Law:  Interstate and International Custody DisputesThere are arguably no situations more pressing or serious than those involving the custody of your children. In the context of divorce, determining child custody is often the most contentious aspect of the entire lawsuit, and despite issues of property division and alimony often becoming hotly contested issues in their own right, both parents often find themselves fighting with their greatest vigor to protect their right to control the upbringing and development of their children after the bonds of legal matrimony are finally dissolved. If the parents never married, disputes over child custody can become the sole contested issue in a legal dispute. Under Tennessee law, child custody can become an issue in a myriad of different family law proceedings.

Nevertheless, while many parents may think that custody disputes are something that always get resolved at the local courthouse, legal disputes over child custody can often traverse several states or even several countries. To make matters even more complicated and pressing, one parent may take physical custody of the children without the knowledge or consent of the other parent, and it may not even be clear where the children are located or who is with them at the time a parent wants to file a legal action for custody in such exigent circumstances.

For example, imagine a situation in which you have been married to your spouse for approximately fifteen years and you have two minor children, ages twelve and fourteen. One day, after working long hours, you come home to find a note from your spouse saying, “I just can’t take this anymore. I’m leaving and I’m taking the kids with me. I think we may eventually stay with my parents but I’m not sure when. Don’t try to follow us.” After reading the note several times over, you frantically search the house only to find that both of your children are gone, many of their clothes are missing from their closets, and neither the children’s passports nor suitcases are anywhere to be found. In what seems like the blink of an eye, your children are gone, and you don’t know when – if ever – you may see your children again. What can you do?

Cole Law Group BlogWhen my daughter was very young, she went through a phase where she would create “clubs” that she would then ask friends and family members to join. These clubs were usually fan related, e.g. the “Hannah Montana Fan Club”, or cause related, e.g. the “Save the Sea Lions Club.”  The process of joining the club was usually very simple; all you had to do was sign next to the “x” on her membership list and you were in.

Picture now a November night in 2004. I am in my home office reviewing documents while simultaneously trying to participate in a conference call when my daughter approaches with what I perceive to be her typical club application. As I struggle to manage documents while cradling the phone to my ear, she holds a paper up and whispers, “Daddy, sign here!”  As usual, I sign at the “x” and then quickly return to my call.

Shortly after the conference call is concluded, my daughter dances into the office singing, “I’m getting a puppy!  I’m getting a puppy!”  In an attempt to suppress her enthusiasm, I reply, “You know, your mother and I have had a discussion about this, and I am not sure we can get a puppy this year.” Whereupon, my daughter proclaims, “Yes, I am getting a puppy!  You signed a contract!” and held up the paper I had signed which, to my chagrin, clearly stated at the top of the page, “I Todd Cole hereby agree to give a puppy to my daughter for Christmas.”

Father-and-Son-on-Beach-300x200“Luke, I Am Your Father!”

The famous, misquoted dialogue in Star Wars Episode 5 where Darth Vader reveals he is Luke’s Father would not be enough under Tennessee Law for Darth Vader to have any rights to parent Luke.1 Perhaps this is another example where the law is a bit more complicated than the movies. As an attorney, I have answered many questions about the rights of parents and children under Tennessee law. This article is intended to provide an overview of the default rules that govern the rights of parents under Tennessee law. It also addresses how mothers and fathers can petition to establish paternity in the Tennessee court system.

Tennessee is what is commonly referred to as a “Mother’s state”. This simply means that when children are born out of wedlock, the Father has no rights to parent the child.2 If the parents are married, the husband is considered the father of children born during the marriage. If the parents are not married at the time of the birth, legal action of some sort must be taken to establish paternity, or the child has no legal father.

Analysis of Recent 6th Circuit Court Opinion in Fox v. Amazon

Cole Law Group blogThe Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided a case involving an Amazon hoverboard that caused a fire resulting in various injuries and the destruction of the Plaintiffs’ home in Fox v. Amazon, Inc. (6th Cir. 2019).1  Plaintiffs claimed in their complaint that Amazon sold an unreasonably dangerous product in violation of the Tennessee Products Liability Act of 1978, T.C.A. § 29-28-101; breached a duty to warn about a defective or unreasonably dangerous product; and caused Plaintiffs’ misunderstanding about the source of the product in violation of the Tennessee Consumer Protection Act.

Relevant Facts

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Attorney Paul Tennison Active Duty

The Physical Disability Review Board was created by federal law with the passage of the Dignified Treatment of Wounded Warriors Act in 2008. The DTWWA made several significant changes to the care of wounded veterans. First, the law required the military branches to use the same disability determination rating scale as that used by the VA. Second, the law expanded the care available to injured service members after their military service. This included changes in treatment in military and civilian facilities for a variety of conditions, including Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Third, the new law required comprehensive plans to address TBI and PTSD. Fourth, the law directed the Secretary of the Department of Defense (DoD) to establish physical disability review boards to review disability determinations meeting certain criteria and timeline requirements. The law also addressed the quality of housing provided to patients by requiring improved standards.1

After the law passed, the DoD issued instruction 6040.44 which “establish[ed] policies, assign[ed] responsibilities, and provide[d] procedures for PDBR operation and management as required by section 1554a of Title 10, United States Code.”2 The PDBR’s mandate is to: “reassess the accuracy and fairness of the combined disability ratings assigned former service members” who meet certain criteria.3 Those criteria are summarized here:

Blog-photo-defamation-law-1-300x200Recently, the Tennessee Senate and General Assembly unanimously passed HB 0777/SB1097 otherwise known as the Tennessee Public Participation Act. On April 23, 2019, Governor Bill Lee signed the bill which will become effective on July 1, 2019. This statute dictates new anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation) measures for all citizens of Tennessee. The Tennessee Public Participation Act will broadly increase the protections as outlined in the first paragraph of the bill summary below:

“Under this bill, if a legal action is filed in response to a party’s exercise of the right of free speech, right to petition, or right of association, that party may petition the court to dismiss the legal action. All discovery in the legal action will be stayed upon the filing of a petition pursuant to this bill and the stay of discovery will remain in effect until the entry of an order ruling on the petition. The court may allow specified and limited discovery relevant to the petition upon a showing of good cause.”¹

The Tennessee Public Participation Act goes beyond Tennessee’s current anti-SLAPP Law (limited only to complaints made to government entities) and Tennessee’s “Loser pays” statute.² Tennessee joins states such as California and Texas in passing comprehensive anti-SLAPP legislation.

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