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Collecting military challenge coins is something that service members understand. However, those outside the military may have never seen them before or comprehend their unique history. Many purposes are served by challenge coins in the military. One is to reward exceptional performance during training or combat operations. Rewarding excellence is commonly utilized among military leaders to incentivize excellence and raise the morale of a unit. At other times coins are awarded to all service members involved in a particular unit or mission. This shows that each Solider awarded the coin belongs to that unit or contributed to the mission. When I see a military challenge coin, I try to identify the unit, operation, or other insignia to determine if I recognize those features.

I was unaware of the traditions of military challenge coins until I arrived at West Point. As a cadet at the United States Military Academy, I often interacted with Army officers and senior non-commissioned officers who had on their desk or in their office a large collection of military challenge coins. I would sometimes recognize the unit insignia of a well known Army unit or a combat operation or training center that was displayed on a specific coin.

I distinctly remember the first time I was personally awarded a military challenge coin. As a cadet, I volunteered to be on the Color Guard during my sophomore year. As part of my Color Guard duties that year, I often carried general officer flags during parades. One day, as I was performing that duty for the Commandant of Cadets, Brigadier General Robert L. Caslen, the General surprised me by shaking my hand and thanking me for doing an excellent job in performing my duties. He presented me with a coin bearing one star and the West Point insignia that to this day is the military challenge coin of the highest rank that I have been awarded.

How Does the Army ROTC Program Work?

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

The US Military’s Reserve Officers’ Training Corps is a system through which many college students can pursue an undergraduate education while conducting military training that prepares them for a period of service as a commissioned military officer. According to the US Army, “The overall mission of the Army ROTC Program is to produce commissioned officers in the quality, quantity, and academic disciplines necessary to meet active Army and reserve component requirements.”1 Army ROTC includes a chain of command starting with a Commanding General and going down through a Battalion Commander and Professor of Military Science (PMS) to individual cadets.

Compass pointing to MediationDivorce Law Basics

Lawyers label divorce cases according to the complexity of issues that must be resolved prior to the granting of a decree and/or to the degree of contention that exists between the two opposing parties. An uncontested divorce is one in which both spouses seek a divorce and agree on all divorce related matters. A contested divorce is a case where one of the spouses does not want a divorce or where the spouses are unable to agree on all the issues of the case. A complex divorce case is a contested divorce where many issues are in dispute.

Important considerations in a divorce may include: alimony¹, a parenting plan and child support (when there are minor children), the division of personal property (such as furniture, cars, firearms, etc.), payment of attorney’s fees, marital debt, division of real property, taxes, and other financial considerations. Every case is unique, and significant issues will vary based upon the complexity of the marital estate and the personal goals of each spouse.  Speaking with an attorney before filing for divorce can help someone who is considering divorce determine what issues may or may not be significant to him or to her.

Black Covid-19 flag on top of US flagAs part of the response to the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19), on April 22, 2020, the President issued a Proclamation Suspending Entry of Immigrants Who Present Risk to the U.S. Labor Market During the Economic Recovery Following the COVID-19 Outbreak (the “Proclamation”). The Proclamation, which is effective April 23, 2020, for a period of sixty (60) days, does significantly impact immigration for many individuals currently outside of the United States and seeking entry into the country on a permanent basis. Nevertheless, the Proclamation also has many exceptions, and it appears likely that the Proclamation will not ultimately prevent the majority of individuals seeking lawful permanent residency in the United States from obtaining green cards.

Generally, the Proclamation suspends and limits the entry of individuals who are not United States citizens or lawful permanent residents into the United States. Importantly, however, the Proclamation only applies to individuals who: (1) are outside the United States on April 23, 2020; (2) do not have an immigrant visa that is valid on April 23, 2020; and (3) do not have an official travel document other than a visa (i.e., an advance parole document, re-entry permit, or other official travel document) that is valid on April 23, 2020, or issued on any date after April 23, 2020, and permits the individual to travel to the United States and seek entry or admission.

Moreover, the general suspension and limitation on entry contained in the Proclamation has several exceptions and does not apply to several categories of individuals. Individuals falling within any of these exceptions will not be denied entry into the United States as immigrants due to the Proclamation. Specifically, the Proclamation does not apply to individuals falling into any of the following categories: (1) any lawful permanent resident of the United States; (2) any individual seeking to enter the United States on an immigrant visa as a physician, nurse, or other healthcare professional, or to perform work essential to combating or recovering from the COVID-19 outbreak (including any spouse and unmarried children under 21 years old of any such individual(s)); (3) any individual applying for an EB-5 Investor Visa; (4) any individual who is the spouse of a United States citizen; (5) any individual who is a child of a United States citizen and under the age of 21; and (6) any member of the United States Armed Forces and any spouse and children of a member of the United States Armed Forces. In addition, the Proclamation contains exceptions for certain individuals designated by the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Homeland Security as being important to the furtherance of certain law enforcement objectives or whose entry would be in the national interest.

What Is the Purpose of Discovery?

Cole Law Legal DiscoveryDiscovery is the formal pre-trial process through which each party in a civil lawsuit may discover legal evidence and facts about the case from the opposing party or parties and witnesses. In Tennessee, discovery is governed by the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure and, in many cases, by local rules as well. The general scope of discovery is quite broad. “Parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, which is relevant to the subject matter involved in the pending action…”1 Both Plaintiffs and Defendants should use the discovery process in an effort to prove their claims and defenses and disprove the claims and defenses of the opposing party. The court may limit discovery in certain circumstances.2

There are four main types of discovery that will be utilized in most civil cases:  interrogatories, request for production of documents, requests for admission, and depositions.3

Gavel pounding moneyIn many marriages, one spouse will be the primary breadwinner. If a couple is happily married, a significant disparity in income is often not a cause for concern, but if the couple decides to divorce, the lesser earning spouse is at a financial disadvantage and may wonder if he or she can afford the cost of an attorney. The law aims to protect the rights of all individuals, even individuals that cannot afford an attorney. Thus, in many divorce cases, the court will order one spouse to pay the other spouse’s legal fees. If you intend to end your marriage, it is in your best interest to consult a skillful Tennessee divorce attorney to discuss whether your spouse may be responsible for your legal fees.

Responsibility for Legal Fees

Like many states, Tennessee follows the “American Rule,” which traditionally requires a party to a lawsuit to pay his or her own attorney’s fees unless a statutory or contractual provision states otherwise. State v. Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., 18 S.W.3d 186, 194 (Tenn. 2000). Nevertheless, Tennessee statutory law vests trial courts with the discretion to award one party his or her attorney’s fees in the context of a divorce proceeding, and some trial judges may deem such an award to be a form of alimony. See Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-5-103(c).

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

Attorney Paul Tennison accepting command of Battery B in Poland on August 15, 2019

A military discharge upgrade can be an important step in the life of a veteran who believes that he or she received a lower discharge than what was deserved. Various federal and state benefits are available only to veterans who were discharged at an acceptable level. The best discharge is an Honorable discharge, which should enable the veteran to access all benefits. General Discharge Under Honorable Conditions is the second highest level. Other Than Honorable Conditions Discharge is the third level, while a Bad Conduct Discharge is the fourth. Dishonorable is the lowest level of discharge and is reserved for those convicted of serious crimes while in the military. Veterans who receive a Dishonorable Discharge forfeit all benefits, cannot lawfully possess a firearm, and forfeit their right to vote. For more information about types of military discharges, you should refer to this article.1

Fortunately, U.S. federal law allows veterans to request a higher-level discharge through one of two record-correction boards. Within 15 years of discharge, veterans may apply to a Discharge Review Board (DRB) using form DD-293. Importantly, DRBs may not make a discharge worse nor can they overturn a court-martial decision. If a discharge occurred more than 15 years ago, a veteran can apply to the Board for Correction of Military Records (BCMR). Veterans should apply to the BCMR within 3 years of discovering the error or injustice they are asking the board to fix using form DD-149. BCMRs also cannot make a discharge worse or override a court-martial conviction.

Cole Law Group BlogThe marriage is over but the divorce lingers on.  Perhaps you are one who has now reached a high level of frustration because you still can’t get on with your life, because you and your ex-spouse are deadlocked on every issue, and because your divorce is dragging along at a snail’s pace.  Actually, your consternation may be justified.  The prolongation of divorce proceedings is both financially ruinous and emotionally devastating.  And you shouldn’t have to endure it forever. 

In Tennessee the procedure for dissolution of marriage is pretty straightforward.  A no-fault divorce based on irreconcilable differences with no minor children involved has a minimum statutory waiting period of 60 days (90 days if minor children are involved.)  This uncontested divorce process should be completed within one year and consists of four primary steps:  1) File a petition for divorce with the  court, 2) Prepare a Marital Dissolution Agreement, 3) Agree on a Permanent Parenting Plan if minor children are involved, and 4) Schedule a final hearing in court. The procedure for a contested divorce, on the other hand, can take up to two years and beyond to finalize simply because of the filing of motions and counter motions, discovery (interrogatives, fact finding, and depositions), court ordered mediation, or multiple hearings and a backlog of court cases.

And even though a contested divorce by its very acrimonious nature takes longer to resolve, it is wise to be aware of certain mindsets and external influences that can turn a routine process into a never-ending nightmare.  Below are some bumps in the road that can derail a successful, timely divorce resolution.

Military Law Attorney Paul E. Tennison

Military Law Attorney Paul Tennison

You may have heard about Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”). Servicemembers experienced in the realm of military justice may reference Article 15 punishment under numerous terms: punishment by the commander, non-judicial punishment (“NJP”), getting ninja punched, captain’s mast, or admiral’s mast. Essentially an Article 15 proceeding is where a commanding officer determines if a military member has committed a relatively minor infraction of the rules governing military servicemembers. In my Army service I have witnessed Article 15s for many different circumstances, including soldiers being repeatedly late to formation, a soldier being absent without leave (“AWOL”) for a short period of time, a soldier reporting drunk to duty, a soldier involved in a bar fight, a soldier that got a DUI, a soldier breaking curfew, insubordination, and a soldier falling asleep while on guard duty. More serious crimes under the UCMJ will go straight to a court-martial and not be adjudicated under Article 15. Article 15 proceedings are much more common than courts-martial.

The Uniform Code of Military Justice is the law that applies to U.S. military servicemembers.¹ This includes all branches of the uniformed services in the United States: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and the Coast Guard. However, the UCMJ does not apply in all circumstances. For example, National Guard and Air Guard Soldiers are only subject to the UCMJ when activated in a federal capacity. Military reserve components, servicemembers, and service academy cadets are governed by the UCMJ. ROTC cadets are exempted from the UCMJ even while on active duty for training.²

What is the Limit of a “Small estate”?

Cole Law Group BlogThe Tennessee Small Estates Act is found in Tennessee Code Annotated § 30-4-101 et seq. Under this statute, “small estate” is defined to mean an estate in which the value of the property does not exceed $50,000. Additionally, as defined in the statute, “property” is limited to personal property owned by the decedent on the date of death, other than personal property held as tenants by the entirety or jointly with the right of survivorship and/or personal property payable to a beneficiary other than the decedent’s estate (e.g. life insurance payable to a designated beneficiary and/or payable on death bank accounts). Please be advised that real property (e.g. a decedent’s residence or other real estate) is not included in the statute’s definition of  “property.”

Benefits of the Tennessee Small Estates Act

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