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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.

Attorney Paul Tennison active duty

Attorney Paul Tennison active duty

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs administers disability compensation that veterans have for illnesses or injuries which were caused by, or have been made worse during, active military service. The compensation may include financial support and other benefits such as health care.  Click here for more information on eligibility requirements for VA disability.

If you believe you are eligible for Veterans Affairs disability, the first step is to gather any supporting documentation for your claim. You will need evidence such as military records related to the injury or illness at issue, your medical treatment records, and your DD214 or other separation documents. Fill out your claim form completely and include all the relevant evidence. Today, you have several options for how you can file a claim:

Alimony – A Primary Issue in Divorce

Alimony ButtonFor better or worse, nearly half of marriages in the United States end in divorce. Although the exact statistics on divorce fluctuate slightly from year to year and state to state, the residents of Tennessee are no strangers to breaking the bonds of matrimony. Throughout Tennessee, it is widely accepted and understood that issues pertaining to child custody and property division must be decided as part of any divorce. However, another extremely important issue in divorce – the issue of alimony (sometimes referred to as “spousal maintenance” or “spousal support”) – is often less certain or overlooked by parties to a divorce until it is too late, particularly if either or both of the parties have never gone through divorce before or if the divorce is unexpected.

In a broad legal sense, there are five (5) primary issues pertaining to any divorce: (1) grounds for divorce; (2) child custody; (3) child support; (4) equitable distribution of marital property; and (5) alimony. While none of these issues can be considered in isolation, the issue of alimony often predominates throughout divorce. The issue of alimony is the last major issue decided by the trial judge in a Tennessee divorce. Even if the facts of a case strongly indicate that the Court is likely to award one party alimony at the conclusion of the proceeding, vigorous litigation can ensue regarding what form the alimony should take, as well as its amount, duration, and other conditions.

Path to Permanent Residence in Nashville, TNThe United States immigration system contains millions of pending applications at any given time. Although many immigrants throughout the United States ultimately submit their applications to obtain lawful permanent residence (i.e., a “Green Card”) or other immigration benefits to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), the Immigration Courts located in the Executive Office for Immigration Review (an office within the U.S. Department of Justice) present a very different, surprising, and far riskier path to lawful permanent residence: removal proceedings.

Without a doubt, being placed in removal proceedings and facing deportation from the United States is probably one of the greatest fears of any immigrant in the United States. If the Government succeeds in its case against an immigrant in removal proceedings, the Immigration Court will order the immigrant removed from the United States and, with only few exceptions, the immigrant will be transported back to their native country. Immigrants placed in removal proceedings because of criminal charges brought against them in the United States may even be placed in federal custody and detained for the duration of their removal proceedings, rendering it difficult or impossible for them to re-connect with their loved ones while their removal proceedings are ongoing, and their ability to secure legal counsel and obtain the necessary evidence to support their defense may be substantially impaired. Indeed, for nearly all immigrants currently residing in the United States – lawfully or otherwise – the possibility of being placed in removal proceedings is a scenario that cannot be described as anything other than truly horrifying and disastrous, as their removal from the United States will mean separation from their families, an end to the life they have built for themselves over a period of months or years, and a return to dangerous or unhealthy living conditions in the country they hoped to flee, leave behind forever, or never return to.

As difficult as the removal process is for countless immigrants, the current legal landscape does provide a little-known silver lining to the removal process: certain immigrants can acquire lawful permanent residence status and a Green Card by obtaining a form of relief known as cancellation of removal in a removal proceeding. Indeed, in certain circumstances, not only can immigrants prevail in their removal proceeding and avoid deportation from the United States – they can actually obtain a Green Card at the conclusion of the proceeding and be admitted to stay in the United States permanently when there would have otherwise been no other avenue available to obtain a Green Card.

Path to Permanent Residence in Nashville, TNIn the United States, one of the most important goals for millions of immigrants is acquiring a “Green Card” – the symbol of lawful permanent residence and a pathway to citizenship. Although many immigrants apply for a Green Card through a family member who is already a lawful permanent resident or United States citizen, many immigrants – both inside and outside of the United States – do not have such family connections and cannot rely on a family member to achieve the goal of obtaining lawful permanent residence. Part 3 of this series discusses employment-based immigration and how those with certain education, training, or other skill sets can nevertheless apply for legal status in the United States as part of their employment or trade, despite lacking any family connection that might otherwise make them eligible for an immigration benefit. If you missed Part 1 of this series (providing an overview to obtaining a Green Card) or Part 2 of this series (discussing family-based immigration), you can find Part 1 here and Part 2 here.

Generally, employment-based immigration is split into five (5) different preference categories:

  1. Priority workers, which include persons with extraordinary ability, outstanding professors and researchers, and multinational managers or executives (EB-1);

Path to Permanent Residence in Nashville, TNThroughout America, one of the greatest struggles facing millions of immigrants is that of obtaining lawful permanent residence or – as it is commonly called – a “Green Card.” There are dozens of possible paths to obtaining a Green Card. Even many undocumented immigrants have a pathway to legal permanent residence available to them. Part 2 of this series focuses on family-based immigration and some of the ways immigrants can seek a Green Card through family relationships they have with relatives who are U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. If you missed Part 1 of this series (an overview to obtaining a Green Card), you can find it here.

Currently, family-based immigration results in greater numbers of admissions than the other categories of immigrants. As specified in the Immigration and Nationality Act, eligibility for family-sponsored immigration is determined by an immigrant’s familial relationships to U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents. See 8 U.S.C. §§ 1151, 1153. If an immigrant can be categorized as an “immediate relative” of a U.S. citizen, he or she may be exempt from the waiting times that apply to other categories in family-based immigration. However, immigrants seeking to obtain lawful permanent resident status through their marriage to a U.S. citizen may also be subject to heightened scrutiny and evidentiary requirements. Determining your eligibility for a family-based immigration category, as well as which category is best for you, is a complex process that should not be attempted without the assistance of an immigration attorney.

Generally, the process of obtaining a Green Card in family-based immigration starts with the filing of a visa petition by the immigrant’s relative in the U.S. Visa petitions are generally filed with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”), an agency within the Department of Homeland Security. Generally, a USCIS Officer will be responsible for adjudicating the visa petition. Approving a family-based visa petition can be discretionary for a USCIS Officer. Therefore, it is crucial to complete the visa petition in the legally correct manner and with sufficient supporting evidence to prove the bona fide nature of the family relationship. To gather the necessary evidence and complete the visa petition properly, it is important to secure the legal counsel of an immigration lawyer before submitting a visa petition to USCIS or any other government agency.

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