Shacking-Up-Cole-Law-Group-300x200Born right on the cusp of Millennial and Gen Z, I was raised with the impression that fifty percent (50%) of marriages end in divorce. Given that less than inspiring statistic, there is no doubt as to why the younger generations are postponing marriage or dropping the seemingly archaic notion all together. But at what cost? Outside of the tax implications, there are legal dilemmas that arise when you have been living with a significant other and have to divide assets without the protections of a divorce.

How does a divorce protect me?

Although many of us were raised with the idea that divorces are bad, they do allow certain protections for couples that need to separate. In Tennessee, ‘marital property’ is subject to equitable distribution at the time of divorce. In general, all property obtained during a marriage and all income from any increase in value of property obtained prior to the marriage constitutes marital property.[1] However, if you are not married and have no other contract dictating who gets what in the event of a breakup, despite investing in a home for years, you may walk away with nothing.

ComplainFrom my experience handling professional and commercial licensing defense cases, I have developed a strategy that should benefit any professional license holder or regulated business owner in Tennessee who has been notified that they are the subject of a complaint and under investigation for a potential rules violation.

This post is designed for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice for any particular case. All case circumstances are unique and should be considered by an attorney in your area prior to acting upon any legal advice.

Your initial notification will probably be from an investigator assigned to your case. This letter will state the facts of the alleged infraction, your right to consult with counsel, your right to due process, and your right to be heard. You may be given a deadline to submit information in response to the investigation. Remember, the professional board is there to protect the public, not to protect you. Anything you say or do at this point can be used against you. Take this letter very seriously.

pexels-mart-production-7290690-300x200Any phrase, logo, design, or a combination of these elements, that describes and establishes a good or service is considered a trademark. Two very well-known stars of Hollywood, Hailey Bieber and Kim Kardashian, have recently found themselves involved in trademark infringement lawsuits. On June 15, 2022, Mrs. Hailey Bieber produced and launched a line of skincare products entitled Rhode.[i] Ms. Kim Kardashian also launched a skincare line in early June.[ii] Both lawsuits claim the Hollywood stars’ brands are confusing to customers and retail partners due to the names being similar to existing companies.

What is a trademark?

A trademark is a form of intellectual property that “can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or a combination of these things that identifies your goods or services.”[iii] A trademark is used to refer to a product that identifies as goods, while a “service mark” is used for services.[iv] A trademark is utilized to assist customers in recognizing and identifying a product in the marketplace as well as aid customers in differentiating a product from its competitors. A trademark also can “provide legal protection for” a brand and help guard the brand “against counterfeiting and fraud”.[v] A trademark awards the owner with the rights to use a word or phrase in reference to specific goods and services, but not the right to the particular word or phrase in general. A trademark is highly successful in providing its various protections when it is creative and unique in reference to the good or service it describes.

pexels-rodnae-productions-7841506-300x200How does arbitration work?

Arbitration is the process whereupon parties resolve their disputes via a private proceeding rather than in a courtroom. During arbitration, a neutral party known as an arbitrator presides over a case and issues a ruling, similar to what a judge or jury would do in the court system. An arbitrator is generally an experienced lawyer or retired judge with specific subject matter expertise in the area of the dispute. Unlike mediation, arbitration is a binding process, and the findings of the arbitrator are usually upheld and rarely overturned. Arbitration is favored by some litigants and disfavored by others.

What are the pros and cons of arbitration?

pexels-ekaterina-bolovtsova-6077326-300x200On June 15, 2022, the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion interpreting and discussing the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction (the “Hague Convention”).[i] The case, Golan v. Saada, is one of the rare instances of the United States Supreme Court interpreting the Hague Convention, and the Court’s unanimous decision provides additional insight into how the Hague Convention may be applied in future international custody disputes arising in the United States.

A Brief Overview of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction

Numerous countries around the world began adopting the Hague Convention in order to address the problem of international child abductions during domestic disputes.[ii] Currently, there are 101 countries, including the United States, that are signatories to the Hague Convention.[iii]

pexels-rene-asmussen-1932666-300x225The exclusive right to copy and distribute a creative work, or a copyright, provides protection to its owner and that person’s original expression of an idea or thought. The film released on May 27, 2022, “Top Gun: Maverick”, has recently found itself involved in a copyright infringement lawsuit. The classic film “Top Gun,” featuring Tom Cruise in the starring role, is based on a magazine article written in 1983. The heirs of the author of the magazine article filed a lawsuit on June 6, 2022, in federal court in Los Angeles, California alleging copyright infringement.[i] The heirs claim that Paramount Global’s rights to the original magazine story expired in 2022.[ii]

What is a copyright?

A copyright is a form of intellectual property that secures “original works of authorship” once the creator has created a “tangible form of expression.”[iii] A copyright is able to protect a wide variety of works, including photographs, musical compositions, books, plays, architectural renderings, and movies.[iv] Once a creator composes the original work and creates a tangible item from it, that person become the creator and copyright owner. The United States law regarding copyrights awards the creator and copyright owner with exclusive rights to make copies of the work, display the work, and, important to the case at hand, assemble derivative works based upon the original work. The original owner of the copyright also carries the right to allow or authorize other individuals or companies to exercise the exclusive rights they hold. Lastly, the original owner and its heirs have the right to terminate granted rights after thirty-five years.

Suing Your Ex for Defamation

Over the course of my nearly ten years practicing in defamation and privacy law, I have been asked on numerous occasions if it is possible to file suit against a former spouse for defamation. This question has recently popped up with a fervor due to the widespread publicity of the Johnny Depp vs. Amber Heard trial. Although every situation is unique, here are some factors that you should consider before deciding to pursue litigation against your ex.

Litigation Privilege

pexels-kostiantyn-stupak-190340-300x200On February 24, 2022, President Vladimir Putin instructed the Russian army to invade Ukraine. The President’s goal in implementing this abrupt and sudden invasion was to prevent Ukraine from joining the Western defensive alliance with NATO. Unfortunately, President Vladimir Putin’s crusade has now displaced more than five million refugees who have been forced to flee the bloodshed and violence by Russian forces.[i] This tragic act of war has caused not only Ukrainians, but a number of Russians as well, to leave their homelands and seek refuge in the United States.

There are various immigration pathways to the U.S. that these displaced refugees might employ in order to achieve legal immigration status:

  • Apply for specific visas with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS)

pexels-pixabay-269077-300x200The number of new Tennessee businesses has grown year-over-year every quarter for ten (10) Years.[i] Tennessee remains an attractive location for business owners. I often consult with clients about moving their businesses from Florida, California, or other states to Tennessee. Unfortunately, this is not a simple process and business owners should carefully consider their options before making this important decision. Generally, the business owner moving a limited liability company to Tennessee has two (2) options.

  • Domesticate your business within the State of Tennessee. This process occurs when an out of state limited liability company registers as a ”foreign” business entity within the State of Tennessee. This can be a relatively simple process that only requires business owners to obtain a Certificate of Good Standing from their current state and subsequently file a registration form in Tennessee. Oftentimes, business owners do not prefer this option because it means that the limited liability company remains a company of the former state. For example, a California Limited Liability Company would remain a California Limited Liability company, only it would then be properly registered to conduct business in Tennessee. However, registering as a foreign business entity within the State of Tennessee means the company can still be subjected to administrative fees associated with business entities, taxation,[ii] and potential litigation in its former state.
  • Register a new limited liability company in Tennessee. Business owners can easily incorporate a new Tennessee limited liability company and either keep their previous limited liability company active in their former state or choose to dissolve it.  Clients are often able to keep their same business name and dissolve their business operations in one state and resume their operations in Tennessee. Business owners tend to prefer this method because it allows them to formally become a Tennessee Limited liability company and not just an out of state company registered to conduct business in Tennessee. Once a party has decided to dissolve their former company and reincorporate a new LLC, they should also make sure that all previous assets, such as real estate, intellectual property, and bank accounts are properly updated to reflect the new business entity.

pexels-cottonbro-4098224-300x200Am I Eligible for an Annulment in Tennessee?

When a couple seeks to end their marriage in Tennessee, the termination of the marriage is generally accomplished through divorce. The divorce process usually commences with one spouse filing for divorce in a Tennessee court of competent jurisdiction. Once the divorce litigation is initiated, it will progress in either an uncontested or contested fashion. In uncontested divorce cases, the divorce is finalized upon the court approving and incorporating a Marital Dissolution Agreement (and a Permanent Parenting Plan if there are minor children born of the marriage) into a final judgment of divorce. In contested divorce cases, the parties are unable to agree on a Marital Dissolution Agreement (and Permanent Parenting Plan if applicable), and the divorce is finalized by a trial judge upon the entry of a final judgment of divorce after a trial.

There is, however, a rare alternative to divorce: annulment. Annulment is only available if grounds for annulment existed at the time a couple married. In other words, there must have been a defect in the marriage from its inception that renders it subject to annulment, and the spouse seeking the annulment has the burden to prove that the defect existed at the time of the marriage. Simply put, grounds for annulment in Tennessee do not arise after a couple marries, although they may be grounds for divorce.

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