Bandaged Knee From Personal Injury Case

What is Personal Injury?

Should I File A Personal Injury Lawsuit or Claim?

There are many reasons someone might be considering filing a personal injury claim or lawsuit. Let’s say someone is injured in a car accident caused by another party and suffers the cost of unexpected medical bills, in addition to chronic pain. Is this a legitimate reason to file a claim?

To get an answer to this question and others that are similar, be sure to keep reading! It is important to note, however, that all cases are unique. To get answers to your specific injury case, it is important to hire the help of a reputable personal injury attorney.

Is It A Lawsuit Or A Claim?

While the terms may be synonymous in your mind, there is a difference between a claim and a lawsuit in regard to personal injury damages. Both are tools to seek compensation for damages.

A claim is typically filed with the insurance organization of the offending party. This starts a series of negotiations directly with the insurance provider. The goal of these negotiations is to end with a settlement payment that both parties agree to.

A lawsuit is what happens when the process for a negotiated settlement falls apart and the parties can’t come to an agreement.

While a claim is a more simple tool to use when seeking compensation for damages, you should consult with a respected local attorney before you file or sign any paperwork with the insurance company. Remember, the insurance company stays in business by keeping as much money as they can, not by paying out.

When Can You File For A Personal Injury Lawsuit?

In the above example of being injured in an automobile accident that was not your fault, then you may likely have grounds to file a claim or a lawsuit.

Be aware that there are deadlines for certain types of lawsuits. For personal injuries, Tennessee-based lawsuits need to be filed within a year from the accident date, unless the injured person is a minor, and then they have until they turn 19 years old to file a lawsuit. However, it is best to start the process as soon as possible. It is recommended that you factor in the time needed to hire a lawyer to investigate and build your case.

How Much Can I Ask For In A Personal Injury Settlement?

The amount your personal injury case is worth in Tennessee will depend on a variety of factors. Two of the main determining factors are how bad your injuries are and the amount of money available through the responsible party’s insurance policy.

During the case, your attorney will determine the types of damages you can seek in your claim. Examples include:

  • Current and future medical expenses
  • Loss of income and diminished earning capacity
  • Pain and suffering
  • Punitive damages
  • Loss of consortium

Are Personal Injury Settlements Taxable?

The taxable nature of a settlement is mostly governed by the Internal Revenue Code under Section 61 and 104. Generally, compensation for a claim is excluded from being federally taxed if it is for injury or sickness.

When a settlement for a claim is only compensatory for the damages, they will typically not be subjected to taxation. For more information on your particular situation, be sure to consult with a tax professional.

What Is Personal Injury Protection?

Personal injury protection (PIP) is auto insurance coverage that comes into play in states that have “no-fault” insurance. PIP is meant to cover medical bills and loss of income after an accident, regardless of who caused the automotive accident.

Tennessee is not a “no-fault” state, so those involved in accidents will likely have to pay for those costs themselves unless they can prove the fault of another party.

The main exception here is if your automobile liability insurance has medical payments coverage.

How Long Do Personal Injury Lawsuits Take?

There is no single answer to this question because no two cases are the same. However, most personal injury cases can take from eight months to almost three years to pursue.

One reason a case can take longer is that it cannot be fully completed or settled until you are deemed as good as you can get physically. The value and resolution of your case are driven by your recovery amount.

Do Personal Injury Cases Get Settled After The Deposition?

Depositions in personal injury cases happen during the discovery phase. It is where both sides get to ask each other about the injuries that resulted from the accident.

This facilitation, along with other processes, is meant to allow under the court’s supervision the exchange of information between parties.

If it goes well, a settlement can be reached before the need to go to trial.

How Are Personal Injury Settlements Paid Out?

If a settlement is agreed upon for a claim, it can take between four and six weeks to receive your settlement check. You will first need to complete a settlement process, and it often varies slightly from case to case. The insurance company will require you to sign a release to settle the claim.

The check will be sent to your attorney to pay off any liens placed against the funds for medical bills and other fees.

Finally, the attorney’s fees and other associated costs will be deducted before the balance is given to you. Typically, you’ll receive payment in the form of a check from your attorney’s office.

If your claim is not settled and instead becomes a lawsuit, then payout can become a much more complicated and drawn-out process, especially if you have to collect from an individual.

Can Child Support Be Taken From A Settlement?

Yes. All settlement payments in Tennessee are first sent through the state’s Treasury Offset Program. It is a federal database that contains all debts individuals may have through state and federal agencies. If you get a settlement and are behind on your child support, the settlement can be used to pay any delinquent child support payments.

What Are Special Damages?

In personal injury cases, special damages are those damages that are quantifiable, such as lost wages or medical bills.

If a spouse is filing the claim, they may also seek additional damages. These can include loss of companionship, loss of consortium and loss of marital benefits and assistance. In Tennessee, family members may also seek damages for the value of a loved one’s life. This is an approximate monetary value of how much the loved one could have earned in their lifetime.

Is It Worth Hiring A Personal Injury Attorney?

Personal injury attorneys have the necessary experience, time and resources to challenge insurance companies and the adjusters they employ. They can devote their knowledge to getting you the best possible outcome in your case. The more serious your case is, the more you will benefit from hiring the help of a reputable attorney.

Can You File A Claim Without Hiring A Lawyer?

If you have been injured and want to file a personal injury claim, you may do so on your own without hiring a lawyer. However, you may be putting your case at risk of losing.

It is difficult to go up against insurance companies alone. They are experts at what they do and will try to settle your case quickly and for as little compensation as possible. 

Insurance policies contain language that is hard for average people to understand. Plus, you’ll be fighting against adjusters that are aggressive and skilled at limiting insurance company claims. Why wouldn’t you want a skilled partner on your side?

When Do I Need A Personal Injury Lawyer?

If you have been seriously injured, it is best to hire a lawyer right away. Personal injury claims have a statute of limitations of one year following the date of the accident. In Tennessee, it is important to pay attention to the statute of limitations and fully comply with them. 

If you let more than one year pass without filing a lawsuit, the court may choose not to hear your case at all. Not all cases are the same, but most will need the same level of help from a reputable lawyer. They can help establish liability, prove damages and obtain a settlement for you.

How Much Do Personal Injury Lawyers Charge?

The amount a personal injury attorney will charge depends on a variety of factors surrounding your case. Most attorneys will only take on cases without money upfront if they feel the case has merit. This is also called a contingency basis. 

This means you will agree to give them a certain percentage of your settlement. This percentage usually averages between 25 and 40 percent. 

What Questions Should I Ask A Personal Injury Lawyer?

Hiring the right lawyer is essential to obtain a good outcome of your case. It is important to ask specific questions to help you decide. Never hire an attorney unless you are confident they can handle your case successfully. Some questions to ask include:

  • How long have you been practicing in Tennessee?
  • Do you have experience working on cases similar to mine?
  • What typically are your fees?
  • Will you personally work on my case?
  • What kind of results have you been able to get for your other clients with cases similar to mine?

Can I Get A Free Consultation For My Claim or Lawsuit?

Absolutely! To schedule your free initial consultation, give Jed McKeehan a call today at (865) 588-1096.   

wedding ring from divorce legal separation

Why Get A Legal Separation In Tennessee Instead Of A Divorce

Why Get A Legal Separation In Tennessee Instead Of A Divorce?

No couple decides to get married with the intention of getting divorced later on. Unfortunately, some relationships do not work out in the long run. That means there comes a time when decisions about separation and divorce are going to need discussing. If both spouses are not fully confident divorce is the next move, a legal separation might be the best choice. It is a less severe and non-permanent solution to consider before divorcing.

Rarely is there one single reason couples will decide a legal separation in Tennessee is best for them. It could be they want a break from living with each other or cannot divorce because of religious beliefs. Below are some common questions and answers for those who are married and looking for options for exiting their marriage in Tennessee.

Why Would Someone Get a Legal Separation Instead of a Divorce?

There are numerous reasons to consider a legal separation instead of a divorce in Tennessee including:

  • Preserving valuable federal and tax benefits that would end if divorced
  • A separation may help preserve family life for children involved
  • A military pension may be ensured with a legal separation over divorce
  • Allowing the couple to remain on each other’s medical insurance

If you’re not certain of what route to take with your marriage after reading this in-depth article, then please contact Jed McKeehan at (865) 588-1096 today for your free family law consultation.

What Are The Benefits of Getting a Legal Separation?

There are advantages of choosing to legally separate instead of divorce to take into consideration. Separation agreements can protect both spouses and will help resolve issues such as debts, property, child custody, visitation, child support, alimony and other important matters in writing. Additionally, a legal separation allows spouses to remain married to retain insurance coverage in the event of disability or death of a spouse.

Legally separated couples may choose to cohabitate again at any time and be recognized once again as married. When you divorce, a couple cannot do this. They must get remarried to be recognized as such again. In Tennessee, a legal separation will not affect the matrimony bonds, but it will allow the parties the divide their assets and debts and protect the parties from being liable for each other’s debts going forward.

What Qualifies As Being Legally Separated?

In Tennessee, a legal separation is recognized when a judge signs an order that legally “separates” the parties It is essentially the same as a divorce, except the spouses are not allowed to remarry until they officially divorce. The grounds for a legal separation in Tennessee are the same for a divorce. The court system can rule on all issues for a legal separation as they would divorce, except for the dissolution of the marriage. Legal separation decrees can include financial support, child custody, and distribution of assets.

The state of Tennessee recognizes 15 grounds for divorce and legal separation. The most common is irreconcilable differences. This is the same as a no-fault divorce in Tennessee. If you and your spouse cannot file a no-fault separation, you will have to file on the grounds of a fault. Some of the more common grounds include habitual drunkenness, adultery, and inappropriate marital conduct

How Long Can You Be Legally Separated For?

Spouses can remain legally separated indefinitely if they choose to after the agreement is granted by the court. However, after two years of separation (the 15th item on TN state code on grounds for divorce), the court can grant a divorce if either of the spouses proves reconciliation has not happened. The other spouse cannot stop the divorce from being granted at this time.

Are You Protected Financially When Legally Separated In Tennessee?

When you are having issues with your spouse, you may think a divorce is the only way to split and protect yourself financially. However, legal separation in Tennessee can offer the same protection as divorcing. In some cases, it works out better than divorce. It’s best to consult a family law attorney to best understand your protections, since every case is unique.

Can You Be Legally Separated and Live In The Same House?

When legally separated in Tennessee, couples can choose to cohabitate again at any time, or they may never stop cohabitating throughout the entire process They will continue to be recognized as being married until the paperwork has been filed to move the separation to divorce.

Do You Have To Pay Alimony While Legally Separated?

Just as with a divorce, legally separated spouses can be awarded alimony to be paid. Who gets paid and how much will be dependent on the case circumstances and the decision of the court.  It’s important to know that the courts have decided that if alimony is awarded in a legal separation the courts are able to review the award of alimony and may decide to change the alimony if either party moves for a divorce.

Does The Date Of Separation Matter In A Divorce?

When it comes to a legal separation in Tennessee, the date you are officially granted the separation agreement by the court is significant. After two years of being legally separated, either spouse may ask for a divorce to be granted.

What Are The Disadvantages Of Getting A Legal Separation?

When obtaining a legal separation over a divorce, the same amount of work will be involved. The only difference is that spouses will continue to be recognized as married. The main disadvantage of legally separating is neither spouse will be able to remarry or enter into another domestic partnership.

In Tennessee, it may be considered adultery to enter into a sexual relationship with someone other than your spouse while legally separated. If you’ve been dating while legally separated and your spouse decides to divorce, they may do so on the grounds of adultery. This can have negative effects when the courts consider alimony.

Another downside to legally separating is that it does not automatically terminate a spouse’s right to get an inheritance from the other. Because the marriage is never fully terminated in the eyes of the law, one spouse may be entitled to a decedent’s estate. 

Why Would You Choose to be Legally Separated Instead of Just Getting Divorced?

Most of the individuals who opt for legal separation due so for religious religions.  Malachi 2:16 states, “‘For I hate divorce,’ says the Lord.” Legally separating instead of divorcing allows an individual to extricate themselves from a relationship which they no longer desire to be in, while not running afoul of their moral and religious beliefs.  

Separation Vs. Legal Separation In Tennessee?

If you and your spouse are not confident in a divorce or legal separation, you can participate in a trial separation. During a trial separation, you will usually remain married and live apart. This time will be spent reevaluating your marriage and both parties may decide to create an oral agreement about terms of support, visitation and child custody. 

To make your agreement more formal, it can be put in writing and signed by a notary. Couples need to understand that courts will not monitor or authorize a trial separation. If during a trial separation a spouse violates any of the oral or written terms they decided on together, the only recourse to be taken is for the other party to actually file for a legal separation or divorce.

Pros And Cons Of Separation and Divorce?

Even if a legal separation is only for a temporary amount of time, it can be a better option for many couples for numerous reasons. Both divorce and separation, however, have their own sets of pros and cons to consider before going forward.

Pros Of Legal Separation

  • It may not cause problems with a couple’s religious or ethical beliefs
  • Couples may want to try and fix their marriage at some point after living apart
  • One partner may continue getting insurance coverage from the other partner
  • There can be tax benefits of remaining married
  • One spouse may continue to be eligible for pensions or social security benefits from the other spouse before divorcing.

Cons of Legal Separation

  • Not all insurance companies allow for spouse benefits once a legal separation has been finalized
  • Couples may not remarry until they formally divorce
  • If alimony is a consideration, the courts are allowed to modify the alimony amount if a divorce is later sought

Pros of Divorce

  • Divorce makes separating official and legalized. This is the final step in dissolving the marriage.
  • Divorcing is a permanent solution, you will not need to go through the court process again in order to convert the separation to a divorce.
  • You can get remarried once your divorce is finalized.

Cons of Divorce

  • A divorce can be a more expensive process than a legal separation because the parties may feel the need to fight harder given the finality of what is being considered. You will have to cover attorney’s fees, court fees and other expenses involved with filing a divorce.
  • Divorces can be mentally exhausting for both spouses and any children involved.
  • Divorces can cause strain on other personal relationships with friends and family members. They may feel like they have to pick sides once you divorce. You may also find yourself wanting to stay away from any married friends.

Can You Date While Legally Separated?

While it is possible to date while legally separated in Tennessee, it can come with serious consequences. Some of those consequences are unforeseeable and can be critically damaging to the divorce case of the dating spouse. Dating while legally separated can be considered inappropriate marital conduct or adultery under Tennessee law.

Many lawyers have witnessed their client’s dating during a legal separation become the causation of moving into divorce proceedings. Dating while legally separated can also strain the former spouses’ relationship long after the divorce has been filed. Strained relationships between divorced spouses can cause problems later on when trying to co-parent under their permanent parenting plan settled by the court.

The negative consequences are not limited to the former spouse and possible embarrassment. It can also put a strain on the dating parent’s relationship with their adult children and can cause ramifications for years to come.

What Is A Legal Separation Agreement?

Separation agreements are formal agreements granted by courts in Tennessee to spouses who wish to remain married. 

The agreement resolves marital issues such as financial matters, visitation, child custody, debts, division of property and other matters in writing. Separation agreements in Tennessee are legally binding. 

Two years after a court grants a legal separation, either spouse may decide to file for divorce if there has been no reconciliation. The court may also choose to dissolve a marriage before the two years have passed at their discretion.

What Is The Paperwork Needed For A Legal Separation In Tennessee?

In Tennessee, filing for legal separation is essentially the same as filing for divorce. The spouses must file a petition with the court and ask the court for a legal separation.

If there are no children involved, the court will rule on your case no sooner than 60 days after filing the petition. If there are children involved, the court will not hear your case sooner than 90 days after filing. 

Many couples can reach a written agreement regarding financial support, property and the children before their hearing. Any agreements made by the parties will be reviewed by the court, and if the court finds the agreements acceptable, then they will make those agreements part of the final order. If the parties’ legal separation is eventually converted into a divorce, the final order of the divorce may adopt the terms of the legal separation agreement as to property division, alimony, financial support, and child custody.

Do You Need A Lawyer To Handle Separation Agreements?

It is possible to file for a legal separation in Tennessee without a lawyer. With the increase in information found online, many couples think they can resolve their issues without the need or cost of legal help. However, search engines are not a replacement for real, professional legal help and advice. If you are considering filing for a legal separation from your spouse or want to divorce, it is important to hire the help of a licensed and qualified attorney. They can help you navigate the complexities of the law regarding marriage and will ensure a fair outcome.

An experienced family law attorney can inform you of all of your options before you make your decision. If there are children involved, it is crucial to have legal help because your parenting time will be forever changed. 

If you’re still trying to decide between legal separation and divorce, contact me, Jedidiah McKeehan, at (865) 588-1096 for a free consultation today. Let’s make sure you have all the information and understand the options as it comes to this difficult life decision. 

Top 21 Things To Know About Child Support in Tennessee

Depending on the circumstances, facts and number of children involved, child support issues can range from simple to complex. Parents have a legal obligation to help financially support their children.

What Do I Need To Know About TN Child Support?

In this post, we discuss common questions about child support in Tennessee. You’ll also get straightforward answers. If you need help with child support issues, be sure to call attorney Jed McKeehan today at (865) 588-1096. 

  1. What Are Child Support Payments Based On?
  2. Who Decides What The Child Support Payments Are?
  3. Who Has To Pay Child Support?
  4. Does The Father Always Pay Support?
  5. What Do The Child Support Payments Cover?
  6. Is Child Support Required In Tennessee?
  7. When Do Child Support Payments Begin?
  8. How Are Child Support Payments Paid?
  9. Do Alimony Payments Count Towards Child Support Payments?
  10. What Is “Co-Parenting”? Does It Affect Payments?
  11. When Can The Child Support Be Amended?
  12. How Can You Request Changing Child Support Amounts?
  13. How Often Can Child Support Payments Be Modified?
  14. When Do Child Support Payments Stop?
  15. If A Child Reaches 18 And Has Not Graduated High School, Do Support Payments Continue?
  16. If I Become Unemployed, Will I Still Have To Pay Child Support?
  17. How Many Child Support Payments Can Be Missed Before Going To Jail?
  18. Can The State Of Tennessee Force You To Make Child Support Payments?
  19. Are Child Support Payments Taxable?
  20. How Do You File For Child Support In Tennessee?
  21. Can You Obtain A Passport If You Owe Child Support Payments?

What Are Child Support Payments Based On?

Whether married or not, both parents in Tennessee are financially responsible for supporting their children. The amount of support to be paid will depend on both parents combined income. Also, the number of children involved and the parenting time that gets established will affect child support payments. The support amount will be calculated using a fee schedule and will include income from wages, salaries, commissions, tips, pensions, and retirement plans.

Once each parent’s income is calculated, the court will check for deductions. This can include self-employment taxes paid, Social Security benefits collected and any other credits a parent may have earned for supporting other children.

Be sure to watch our vlog post for more information on what factors determine child custody.

Who Decides What The Child Support Payments Are?

Gavel in Child Support Courtroom Case

Child support payments are decided by the court using Tennessee’s child support guidelines. Keep in mind, an attorney may be able to help you navigate these guidelines in reaching a favorable result.

Tennessee judges and attorneys interpret the child support income worksheets and laws to establish how much support is needed to maintain each child and their quality of life.

 

Who Has To Pay Child Support?

Both parents are responsible for supporting their children. However, typically the parent who spends less time with the child is the one ordered to pay child support to the other parent.  Even when parents have equal time with the child, the parent making more money will typically be required to pay money to the other parent. The exact amount required to be paid will generally depend on income, the number of children involved and how much time a child spends with each parent. Ordering a parent in Tennessee to make support payments to the other parent starts with applying the facts to the Tennessee Child Support Guidelines.

Does The Father Always Pay Support?

Child support obligations in Tennessee do not always fall to the father. It is based on both parents’ income and other factors, including how much time the child/children spend with each parent.

What Do The Child Support Payments Cover?

In general, Tennessee child support payments are designed to help cover the costs of maintaining the living standards of the child or children in question. It is also intended to be used to cover their basic needs. The support money may also be used by the recipient parent to pay for things like utilities and rent payments to ensure a safe living environment.

Is Child Support Required In Tennessee?

Yes, but there are some rare instances where a court may deviate from the support calculated for legal reasons. In this case, the deviation would need to include compelling reasons and will have to be approved by the judge. If you want to make the most compelling case for this, you need to talk with a family law attorney in Tennessee.

When Do Child Support Payments Begin?

Child support payments will start to accrue as soon as both parents physically separate. This is true whether the parents are married or not. Once the order is established, one parent will begin making payments to the other parent. They will also be ordered to pay child support to catch up for any back support. This is money owed for any time period in which payments were not made when the parents initially separated.  

How Are Child Support Payments Paid?

Many Tennessee fathers and mothers wonder if their child support payments will be paid through the state, privately or another method. Both parties may agree that child support payments go between them without having to involve the state. However, a parent may choose to open a support case for enforcement purposes with the state at any point.

Do Alimony Payments Count Towards Child Support Payments?

No, alimony payments do not have a direct effect on payments required for child support. 

What Is “Co-Parenting”? Does It Affect Payments?

Divorce courts in Tennessee define “co-parenting” as the agreed-upon parenting plan as established by the court. The exact parenting schedule will be determined by the court based on the time-sharing of the children. 

For example, let’s say a parent agrees to 100 days per year. However, they end up only watching the child for 60 days. The court may likely decide that child support will be calculated by assuming 60 days of childcare, and not 100 days. 

When making decisions in regards to custody of children, judges in Tennessee consider 15 factors to determine child custody before they make a ruling.

When Can The Child Support Be Amended?

Determining if and when support can be amended is complex. In Tennessee, ordered child support can be modified if one parent can prove a “significant variance.” This is the difference between what is being paid now and what would be paid under a modified order. The variance needs to be at least a change of 15% or more. Other issues that may make a parent eligible for modifying a support order include:

  • A child becomes disabled.
  • A parent’s income decreases significantly.
  • A significant change in health insurance premiums.
  • Increase in cost of child care.
  • A child moves in or out.
  • One parent has another child.

How Can You Request Changing Child Support Amounts?

In any of the previous circumstances, a formal child support modification request would have to be submitted to the court. Changes will take time to complete and the request is a complicated process requiring paperwork and documents to be submitted.

How Often Can Child Support Payments Be Modified?

Both parents have the right to ask for a child support order to be reviewed for possible modification at any time. However, if there are additional steps if the request is less than two years after another judicial or administrative review was completed. In that case, the parent requesting the new review will need to offer the caseworker relevant information that proves what changes have taken place to initiate the modification review.

When Do Child Support Payments Stop?

Parents paying child support are legally obligated to continue paying until a child turns 18. However, if the minor becomes emancipated, the payments can stop early.

If A Child Reaches 18 And Has Not Graduated High School, Do Support Payments Continue?

If the child listed in the child support order reaches 18 but is still enrolled in high school, the payments will continue to be owed. This is until they graduate or complete the grade they were in when they reached 18 years of age. In most cases, however, child support payments will not stop until the child has both turned 18 and graduated high school. One stipulation to consider is if the child is enrolled in an accelerated program. That that case, payments will continue even once the child is enrolled in college if they are still under the age of 18.

If I Become Unemployed, Will I Still Have To Pay Child Support?

If you become unemployed, you will be legally required to pay your child support payments. If you are paying child support and lose your job, you will need to act quickly and file a petition with the court to have your payments modified. In some cases, the court may offer the paying parent the option to apply for unemployment benefits. Payments can be deducted from temporary unemployment wages.

How Many Child Support Payments Can Be Missed Before Going To Jail?

There is no set number of missed child support payments that will send a parent to jail. However, you are probably risking jail time if you miss three months of payments in a row. Typically, delinquent parents will only be sent to jail if they don’t have a job to lose or are repeat offenders. Some will go to jail if it’s proven they have the money available for support payments but are found spending it on luxury items instead. If found guilty of refusing to pay when able multiple times, a parent may be sentenced to jail. The sentencing is up to 10 days in jail for each willing violation against the court order.

Can The State Of Tennessee Force You To Make Child Support Payments?

Tennessee’s Division of Child Support Services (DCSS) and the family law judges have many tools at their disposal to enforce orders. They can use many of the following options to enforce orders and collect payments. Some include:

  • Seizing investment assets and bank account balances
  • Intercepting federal tax returns
  • Withholding income and wages
  • Revoking a driver’s license or other professional licenses
  • Reporting the child support debts to major credit agencies (this can negatively affect your credit score)
  • Placing a lien on personal property or your home

Parents deemed to be violating existing child support orders are considered in contempt of the court. In Tennessee, the parent found to be in contempt may be ordered to pay the fees for the other parent’s attorney. This can also include any fines given and they can spend up to six months in jail.

Are Child Support Payments Taxable?

According to the IRS, child support payments are not considered taxable income. They are not deductible by the payor or taxable by the payee. When you are calculating your gross income to determine if you are to file a tax return, payments for child support cannot be included. Additionally, child support cannot be used when calculating the Earned Income Credit.

How Do You File For Child Support In Tennessee?

You may apply for child support online or at the child support office in your area. When visiting the online application website, you may apply through the site or download and print the application to take to the local child support office. You may also choose to mail or fax the application for processing.

Can You Obtain A Passport If You Owe Child Support Payments?

If you are more than $2,500 behind in child support payments, you cannot apply for a U.S. passport. You will need to pay your Tennessee arrears before you will be eligible to apply.

 

Child support laws in Tennessee play a crucial role in parenting time and child custody proceedings. Because of this, it is in a parent’s best interest to consult with an experienced family lawyer to help navigate this complex issue. The Knoxville Attorney, Jed McKeehan is available to help you best make it through the confusion that can surround custody laws in Tennessee. If you need help (or think you might need help soon, call Jed today at (865) 588-1096

 

Filing for Divorce in TN: Everything You Need to Know

If someone wants to get a divorce in Tennessee, they have to prove to the court a reason why they should be granted a divorce.

What are the options of “grounds” you can show to the court to get it to grant you a divorce?

Tennessee Code Annotated 36-4-101 lists 15 options that, if proven, can allow you to become divorced.  I will tell you, some of them are pretty out there and do not get brought up any more.  Most people get divorced on the grounds of “inappropriate marital conduct,” because it is the catch-all reason for getting divorced (it can mean anything, including not taking out the trash one time), or “irreconcilable differences” which is the grounds used to divorce people when they come to an agreement prior to an actual trial.

What Are the Grounds for Divorce in Tennessee?

  1. Either party at the time of the marriage was/is naturally impotent and incapable of procreation.
  2. Either party has gotten married a second time while still married to someone else.
  3. Either party has committed adultery.
  4. Desertion or abandonment by a party without cause for one whole year.
  5. Being convicted of a crime that renders a party infamous.
  6. Being convicted of a felony and sentenced to serve time in a penitentiary.
  7. Either party has attempted to kill the other party.
  8. Refusal by either party without cause to move to Tennessee with their spouse and being absent from Tennessee for 2 years.
  9. The woman was pregnant at the time of the marriage by another man without the knowledge of the husband.
  10. Either party is habitual drunkness or abuse of narcotics by either party and the habit was contracted after the marriage.
  11. Inappropriate marital conduct.
  12. Offering indignities to a spouse and thereby causing a spouse to withdraw.
  13. One spouse has abandoned or turned the other spouse “out of doors,” and has refused to provide for the spouse while being able to do so.
  14. Irreconcilable differences.
  15. For a continuous period of two years or more, the parties have failed to cohabit, and there are no minor children.

Fault and No-Fault Divorces

First, let’s begin with the two grounds of divorce in Tennessee. Tennessee offers both fault and no-fault divorces.

A no-fault ground for divorce means the couple agree to every statement in the petition and are asking the court to approve it. The couple typically state there are “irreconcilable differences” within the marriage. In other words, the divorce is uncontested and no single party is at fault for the breakdown of the marriage.

A fault ground for divorce is used when the couple cannot agree on things and need to argue the terms and conditions in court. This can include disagreements over property and asset division, custody arrangements, spousal and/or child support, just to name a few.

The most common reason given for a fault divorce is “inappropriate marital conduct,” which is a “catch all” phrase that could include anything, even something as simple as not taking out the trash. People often get worked up over the term because they feel that they are being accused of or blamed for something, but again, it is a generic phrase used in this situation. It literally could mean anything and allows you to argue in front of a court.

I am often asked if you need to hire an attorney for a divorce, even for a no-fault divorce. Technically, you don’t have to have an attorney to file for and secure a divorce, but it is highly recommended. A divorce is a lawsuit and things can quickly get serious if there is not someone there to watch your back and give you advice about what terms you should and shouldn’t agree to (especially when it comes to children).

How Long Does it Take to Get Divorced?

When people come see me to get divorced, one of the questions that I hear the most is, “I want this done as quickly as possible, how long will it take until I’m actually divorced?”

The answer is, “Well, it depends.”

Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated 36-4-101, the absolute quickest that you can get divorced in Tennessee is 60 days after you file the complaint at the courthouse requesting a divorce.

The law says that if you are getting divorced, and you have no children, you cannot get divorced until 60 days after the divorce paperwork is filed.  If you are getting a divorce and you have children under the age of 18, then you must wait 90 days after the paperwork is filed before you are allowed to get divorced.  These time periods are called, “the cooling down period.”  The legislature decided that they preferred that individuals not be allowed to quickly divorce so that they can contemplate and ponder whether getting divorced is actually what they desire to do.

Having said that, those timelines depend on a number of things.  When you file a complaint for divorce, you will not have a divorce trial date until at least 8 or 9 months after you file, at the earliest.  And in a great number of cases, there is discovery, depositions and mediation that need to take place prior to trial, so that trial date can get pushed a number of times so that it can sometimes take years before people get divorced.

The only real way you can get divorced that quickly is if you and the other person reach an agreement before you file for divorce, or you work out an agreement during the period prior to being allowed to divorce.

If you do reach an agreement, you and your attorney can go before the judge after the cooling down period has passed and ask the judge to grant your divorce.  Both people do not have to be there, only one of the parties is needed for this hearing.

Sources:

How to Maximize Your Tennessee Car Accident Settlement

Regardless of the extent of your injuries, a car accident can be very stressful. Dealing with a damaged vehicle and repairs is much easier than dealing with physical injuries and emotional issues. Remembering these five things can help to make your accident much less traumatic:

5 Ways to Maximize Your Tennessee Car Accident Settlement

1) Keep a record of all expenses and days lost from work due to your injuries. Also, get written documentation from your employer verifying your missed work. This proof will enable you to claim lost earnings. If you’re having difficulty getting your employer to work with you, then your lawyer can assist in obtaining this documentation. If your injuries prevent you from returning to work or school, ask your doctor for a signed letter confirming that you cannot attend.

2) Keep track of time spent by friends and family caring for you and overseeing household and family obligations. If you must now pay someone to mow your lawn or drive you places, you can make those payments part of your claim. If possible, pay those individuals with a check so that you have documentation.

3) Keep all bills and receipts related to your accident. If you don’t save them, you may not be able to prove the amount of your damages. Be sure to save everything, including hospital charges, pharmacy bills, therapy bills, and all other bills associated with your accident. If you buy over-the-counter pain medication, heating pads, crutches, special clothing to fit over casts or braces, or similar items, you may be able to recoup these expenses. If you find such thorough documentation overwhelming, then you should hire an experienced attorney to help you sort, organize, and calculate the total of your medical bills. You don’t want to miss out on any potential reimbursement.

4) Know all your injuries. Injuries caused by accidents may not show symptoms for days or even weeks. Thus, in the days following your accident, you should avoid describing your injuries to the claims adjuster. Don’t give a statement to an adjuster unless you are confident about the status and healing progress of your injuries.

5) Keep a journal of your experiences, and pay close attention to the emotional toll of an accident. Record sleepless nights, pain levels, and limitations or restrictions from regular activities. Be sure to take note of special events, hobbies, and interactions with your loved ones that you missed because of the accident.

By investing a little time and effort before you’ve even had an accident, you can learn how to properly document and record the events related to an accident and save yourself money and potential headaches down the road.

Originally published on KnoxFocus.com.

Arrested for DUI law violation

Tennessee DUI Laws, Penalties, Questions in 2020 – The Ultimate Guide

Tennessee DUI Laws

Drinking alcohol and then get behind the wheel is a recipe for disaster. In Tennessee, drunk driving has been the number one killer since 2012 and the State aggressively pursues these cases. There are serious consequences for drivers who are caught driving after drinking alcohol. If you have been arrested and charged with a DUI, you should understand what that fully means going forward.

In Tennessee, a DUI is a Class A misdemeanor charge with a minimum sentence for a first conviction of DUI is 48 hours in jail, but can be as much as 11 months, 29 days in jail with fines, court costs, loss of license for a year and community service assessed.

2nd Offense DUI Laws in Tennessee

A second DUI conviction carries a sentence of a minimum 45 days in jail, but can be as much as 11 months, 29 days in jail with fines, court costs, loss of license for 2 years and community service assessed.  Never drive drunk, get a taxi or have a designated driver.

What to Do If You Get Pulled Over

Okay, so you have been pulled over by a police officer, probably late at night, and probably shortly after you’ve left an establishment that serves alcoholic beverages.  The officer has already asked for your license, insurance information and (possibly) registration, which you are required to provide, and begins to inquire about your recent alcohol consumption.  Asking how many drinks you had tonight, the officer suspects that you might be intoxicated.  What do you do?

STOP AND THINK IF YOU GET PULLED OVER!!!

Because the Fifth Amendment protects you from self-incrimination, you have the right to refrain from answering any and all questions that the police officer asks you.  This means that you do not have to tell the officer how many drinks you had (or tell him you only had 2, which is what everyone says).  You do not have to answer the interrogating questions.

Remember, you have a right to silence

If you are afraid that you might slur your words or fear your nervousness will cause your speech to stumble, you have the right to remain completely silent or cite your right to refrain from speaking.  If you do not say anything, the officer can’t testify later in court that you were slurring when he pulled you over.  Your refusal to speak cannot be held against you.

Don’t get out of the car, unless you’re told to

Do NOT get out of your car unless the officer asks you to do so.  First of all, police officers tend to get very defensive if you jump out of the car when they pull you over.  The officer doesn’t know if you are armed or what your intentions are when you suddenly flee your vehicle, therefore it is not wise to give them the wrong idea or a reason to draw their weapon on you.  The officer is likely experiencing some amount of nervousness (albeit not as much as you) when they pull you over.  Don’t make it worse!  If the officer orders you to get out of the car and asks you to perform any number of field sobriety tests, you are not required to complete any of these tests.

Know the difference between Field Sobriety vs Chemical Testing

Field sobriety tests are NOT the same as chemical testing which is discussed below.  Field sobriety tests check for coordination and balance–acts people don’t normally perform sober or drunk–can set you up for failure.  You are not required by law to complete these tests and refusal to comply cannot be held against you.  While these strange exercises are called “tests” to give them the feel of authority, they are merely subjective tests that are performed to give the police officer more “proof” that you are under the influence.

No matter how well you perform these “tests” they can be manipulated and used against you in a court of law and officers can arrest you even if you feel that you passed the tests because they are based on the officer’s subjective opinion.  Why incriminate yourself by trying to stand on one foot and touching your nose when you can barely do that stone sober?  If you are charged with DUI based on failing sobriety tests, a review of the field sobriety test video will be critical to the validity of the test.

Understand the Implied Consent Law

The breathalyzer is a device used by the police to determine your blood alcohol content.  Although these tests are widely used, they do not always provide correct information about one’s level of intoxication.  However, all states have what is called an Implied Consent Law. The government has decided that when you obtain a driver’s license, it is a privilege that comes with certain implicit obligations.

By obtaining a license, you (unknowingly) have agreed to submit to chemical testing of your blood, breath, or urine, at the request of a police officer.  If you refuse to comply with chemical testing, such as the Breathalyzer, you will receive automatic vehicle sanctions.  Usually, your license will be automatically suspended for failure to comply with chemical testing.  If a chemical test shows that you have a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or greater, this is enough to prove that you are legally intoxicated and you may be arrested on criminal DUI charges.

While you must submit to chemical testing, these tests are not infallible and do not necessarily mean you will be convicted of a DUI.

What Is A DUI?

A DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charge in Tennessee means you were arrested due to being suspected of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It can be a serious and life-changing offense to be charged with. A DUI is not to be confused with a public intoxication charge. 

Is a DUI Charge A Felony Or A Misdemeanor?

The main difference between misdemeanors and felonies in the state of Tennessee is how much jail time each charge carries. Misdemeanors receive jail time amounting to less than one year.  The maximum sentence you can receive for a misdemeanor is 11 months and 29 days (one day less than a year). This time is often served in the county jail. A felony charge receives incarceration of a year or more, and the time is usually served in a state prison.

In Tennessee, a DUI offense is classified as a Class A misdemeanor. However, if you are convicted of a fourth DUI, it will be classified as a Class E felony. The first three convictions all carry sentences with potential jail time less than 11 months and 29 days. With each conviction, the amount of jail time will increase.

How Long Does A DUI Stay On Your Record?

Even though the first three DUI offenses will be classified as misdemeanors, they will carry harsh punishments that can affect your life dramatically. The convictions will also remain on your criminal record for life.

What Happens For Your First DUI Offense?

In Tennessee, a first-time DUI offender will be required to spend a minimum of 48 hours in the county jail or workhouse. First-time offenders will also have to pay fines that are no more than $1,500 and no less than $350. You will have your license revoked for one year, be required to attend a victim impact panel, alcohol safety program and be placed on probation for the next 11 months and 29 days.

If You’re Convicted of DUI, Can You Travel Internationally?

While you can travel across state lines after taking care of your DUI conviction, there will be some restrictions on traveling internationally. How your conviction is going to affect your ability to travel out of the country will depend on where you plan to travel. 

Some countries, like Mexico and Australia, view DUIs as serious criminal offenses, even if you were convicted of a misdemeanor in the United States. However, certain locations, like the United Kingdom and the European Union, do not have strict travel regulations for DUI offenders.

Can You Get Into Canada With A DUI?

Canada has strict restrictions on drug and alcohol misdemeanor charges for international travelers. United States citizens may be eligible to enter Canada with a misdemeanor DUI temporarily. To do so, it would be necessary to apply for the country’s “Temporary Resident Permit” or go through the “Criminal Rehabilitation” process.

Can You Get A CDL With A DUI?

Drivers with CDL licenses are held to a higher standard than regular drivers with non-commercial licenses. In the state of Tennessee, any CDL driver who gets convicted of a DUI will lose their license for one year, even if the offense happened while driving a personal vehicle. If you are caught driving under the influence in Tennessee while driving a commercial vehicle, the legal limit drops from .08 to .04 BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration). In many cases, a single DUI conviction will mean loss of a job and livelihood for CDL drivers.

Can You Drive For Lyft Or Uber With A DUI?

Most rideshare companies will not allow their drivers to have recent DUI convictions on their records. While the time limit changes, Lyft and Uber may allow drivers to work if their conviction is more than seven years old. If you get a DUI while working for Uber or Lyft, you will ultimately lose your gig.

Can You Join The Military With A DUI?

All branches of the United States Armed Forces will not allow an individual to join the military if they have a DUI conviction on their record. The reason is that individuals with no license or one that is suspended will not be able to perform all duties required of them. Those with criminal records can also find it difficult to obtain necessary security clearances. In rare cases, an individual will be able to get a waiver to join a branch in the military. A conversation with your local recruiter is best to find out what your options are.

How Many Points Is A DUI?

If you are convicted of your first DUI, you will not simply obtain points on your license. In Tennessee, the “Points” system is used to suspend your license after you get too many points (12) in a specified time period. Since first-time DUI offenses automatically result in a one-year suspension of your license, there is no reason to assign points to your license. Additionally, second offenses result in a two-year suspension, and third offenses result in a six-year suspension.

Can You Beat A DUI?

Tennessee has tough DUI laws. If you failed a field sobriety test, you may be convinced a conviction is coming. However, the results of a conviction require many factors, including a breath test, field sobriety test, and a urine or blood test. These do not always result in an immediate conviction.

There can be ways to beat a Tennessee DUI charge. Many relate to how the DUI stop was performed by the officer. Any mistakes on the police report regarding the incident could decrease the officer’s credibility and result in charges not sticking. Additionally, if a police officer did not have probable cause to pull you over, the evidence surrounding the arrest might be inadmissible during your trial.

How Much Is A DUI?

A DUI conviction in Tennessee can be extremely expensive. The actual cost a person convicted of a DUI will pay can vary. Some costs everyone will have to assume are:

  • Bail
  • Towing Fees
  • Restitution (if another party was harmed)
  • Fines from $465 to $1,500 for first-time offenders in Tennessee.
  • Court costs
  • Fees for license reinstatement
  • Ignition interlock device installation. This may cost more than $1,000.
  • Increase in auto insurance premiums.
  • Drug and alcohol treatment programs if the judge requires them.
  • Attorney’s fees
  • Costs associated with missing work, going to jail, treatments, classes, etc.

How Much Does A DUI Lawyer Cost?

There is no set cost for a DUI lawyer. Hiring a Tennessee attorney for your first DUI offense could cost anywhere between mid-four-figures to low five-figures. This is in addition to the fines, court costs and other monetary fees associated with the conviction. 

Even if it may seem that the costs of hiring a lawyer are high, it is crucial to have legal help during your trial. The right attorney may get your charges lowered or dropped. Also, attorneys can lay out all of your options and help you make the best decisions about your case.

Can You Be Charged With DUI Without Evidence?

Each DUI case is unique. In some cases, charges may be dropped without sufficient evidence or evidence that is considered inadmissible for the trial. Under the Tennessee law, drivers are required to submit to a BAC (Blood Alcohol Concentration) test once being arrested for a DUI. Because your arrest was completed due to the officer having probable cause, you are required under the implied consent law to take the BAC tests. The arresting officer must also warn you that failure to comply with this test will result in your license being revoked.

Does A DUI Show Up On A Background Check?

A DUI conviction is a criminal offense and will show up on criminal background checks. In Tennessee, a DUI will stay on your record permanently.

Do You Lose Your License Immediately After A DUI?

In Tennessee, your license will not be suspended right away. There is no administrative suspension until a judge orders it. You will be able to drive while your DUI case is pending. Generally speaking, your driver’s license will not be affected until your court case has been completed. If you are found guilty or plead guilty at the end of your trial for Implied Consent or DUI, the judge will have to suspend your license for a minimum of one year after your first offense. In some cases, you may be able to apply for a restricted license to attend school or work.

What To Do If You’ve Been Charged With A DUI?

A DUI conviction in Tennessee can come with serious, life-altering consequences. It is important not to go through the process and trial alone. Hiring a reputable DUI attorney is important to improve your chances of winning or receiving lesser charges. 

Hire Jed McKeehan as your personal DUI attorney so he can evaluate and fully examine your DUI arrest to formulate a defense for your case. You’re sure to appreciate having a well-practiced and expert attorney that cares about you. Call Jed today at (865) 588-1096 for your free DUI consultation.

 

Portions of this article originally published on KnoxFocus.com.

Lemon Law in TN: What It Is and Why It’s Important

The Lemon Law in Tennessee

What is the lemon law? That’s a term you may have heard before.

A “Lemon” is a motor vehicle sold or leased after January 1, 1987, that has a defect or condition that substantially impairs the motor vehicle; and the person you bought it from cannot repair the vehicle after three attempts or the vehicle is out of service for repairs for a cumulative total of 30 or more days during the term of protection.  This Law is ONLY applicable if the vehicle was bought new.  So the lemon law does not apply to used vehicles at all.  If the above conditions apply though, the manufacturer is required to replace the motor vehicle or refund the purchase price.

“Substantially impair” means to render a motor vehicle unreliable or unsafe for normal operation, or to reduce its resale market value below the average resale value for comparable motor vehicles.

The term of protection is defined as one year from the date of original delivery or the term of the warranty, whichever comes first.

In order to take advantage of the lemon law protections, I would recommend reporting any problem within the first year or within the term of the warranty, whichever comes first.

If you have a lemon, you must notify the manufacturer of the problem in writing by certified mail. The manufacturer has an additional opportunity to repair your car within 10 days. If the manufacturer cannot repair your car and the manufacturer has an informal dispute settlement procedure that complies with Federal Trade Commission regulations, the refund and replacement provisions of the Lemon Law won’t apply until you submit to the procedure. You are not bound by the decision and can still seek available legal remedies, including asking a court to award a replacement vehicle or reimbursement of the purchase price (less a reasonable allowance for use), plus attorney fees and court costs.

You can read more about the lemon law in my column for the Knox Focus.

Public Intoxication in Tennessee

My name is Jed McKeehan, and today, we’re going to talk about the term public intoxication and what that statute says about people who may or may not be publicly intoxicated. It’s codified at Tennessee Code Annotated 39-17-310, and that statute says that if someone is in a public place and they are under the influence of a controlled substance and they are a danger to either themselves or others, then they may be arrested and charged with public intoxication.

The Tennessee public intoxication law also states:

(a) A person commits the offense of public intoxication who appears in a public place under the influence of a controlled substance, controlled substance analogue or any other intoxicating substance to the degree that:

(1) The offender may be endangered;
(2) There is endangerment to other persons or property; or
(3) The offender unreasonably annoys people in the vicinity.

(b) A violation of this section is a Class C misdemeanor.

That’s the entirety of the law on public intoxication in Tennessee. So when I read this law, a few things jump out at me.

First, you don’t even have to be drunk driving to be arrested for being drunk. If you are drunk and in a public place, you have met the first criterion for possibly being arrested for public intoxication.

That’s why its important to know that restaurants and bars are not actually public places. They are private businesses. While they may usually be open to the public, they are allowed to refuse to serve individuals, making them private places. So you cannot get arrested for public intoxication if you are in a private business, and obviously you cannot get arrested while in a private residence.

However, once you walk out on the street, or are at a public park, or any other place owned by a government entity, you are fair game.

Second, you don’t have to be under the influence of alcohol only. If you are under the influence of narcotics of some kind, the police can arrest you for public intoxication.

Finally, you can read for yourself what a person has to be doing to violate the public intoxication law. Unreasonably annoying people in the vicinity?!?!?! That seems pretty vague. Drunk people annoy me all of the time, can I get them arrested?

The language here is very broad, “endangering themselves,” “endangering others,” those are broad terms that could mean almost anything and the legislators may have designed it that way to allow the police to have broad abilities to arrest individuals.

The lesson here is, if you are enjoying any kind of intoxicant, minimize your time in public places.

What Are a Father’s Rights in Tennessee to a Child Born Out of Wedlock?

Father’s Rights in Tennessee

Unfortunately, this issue comes up a lot in this day and age, and it’s surprising how few people know the answer.

So, a couple that is not married has a child. Then something happens and the mother is no longer allowing the father to see the child and he is all upset and worked up about this. What rights does the father have in Tennessee?

The answer is, none. Tennessee Code Annotated Section 36-2-303 states, “Absent an order of custody to the contrary, custody of a child born out of wedlock is with the mother.” What can the father do? He needs to go to juvenile court and file a petition for custody. Then the court will go about having a hearing or setting a mediation when the father can attempt to get some established custody/visitation rights.

A court order or mediated agreement is the only way that the father can get his visitation and custody rights protected. Otherwise, the father is completely at the mercy of the mother to allow him visitation with their child.

Tennessee Child Custody Laws: What You Need to Know

Whether you’re married or not, it’s necessary to put a child custody arrangement in place if you and your child’s other parent decide to part ways. But how does a court determine what the arrangement will be?

There are actually several factors used to determine child custody in Tennessee.

You may have heard that mothers typically get the vast majority of the time with children when there is a custody determination, and fathers usually get every other weekend. That’s not the case anymore, and judges typically start with a 50/50 split unless there’s a reason not to.

So what is the judge required to consider when making that determination?

Tennessee Code Annotated 36-6-106 lists 15 factors that the judge is to weigh in making their decision as to custody. And only one of these factors is the child’s preference. If a child is 12 years old or older, they will be able to say where they want to live, but it’s not a guarantee. That’s only one of the 15 factors. Some of the other factors are continuity in the children’s lives, where have they lived previously, their relationship with siblings, and the parents’ work schedule.

Click here to read each of the 15 factors used to determine child custody in Tennessee.