Knox News Story Draws Attention to Unlicensed Caregivers

A website that parents can use to find caregivers for their children has instituted a formal vetting process following stories of three children who died under supervision in unlicensed daycares, The Knoxville News Sentinel reports. The website,, became the center of an investigation by the paper when it discovered that unlicensed providers were using the site to solicit business. Knox News compiled a list of 52 caregivers from the site. DHS verified that only 22 had valid licenses. Going forward, says it will screen its clients using criminal databases and the national sex offender registry.

read more »

House Passes Bill Making Aggravated Rape of Child Punishable by Life Imprisonment

Legislation that seeks to increase the punishment for a conviction of aggravated rape of a child, amending TCA Title 39, Chapter 13 and Title 40, Chapter 35, easily passed in the Tennessee House with only one vote in opposition. HB0283/SB0290 would increase the penalty for such a crime from 15 to 60 years in prison to a life sentence without the possibility of parole. The legislation was recommended for passage by the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday.

read more »

About 128,000 Children Dropped from TennCare, CoverKids in the Past 2 Years

Almost 128,000 children were dropped from TennCare and its sister program, CoverKids, over the past two years, The Tennessean reports. Between 2016 and January 2019, approximately 1 in 8 children enrolled with the providers were purged from the system, with the agency saying that most were cut because the families did not respond to mandatory renewal forms that were mailed to them. Nashville and Memphis saw cuts of about 14,000 and 22,000 children, respectively. Cheatham County saw the most cuts per capita, with nearly 1 in every 5 enrolled children purged from the programs during that period.

read more »

Tomorrow: Family Law Forum 2019

Register now for the TBA Family Law Forum 2019. In this program, we will dig deep into recent changes affecting the practice area, including high-profile cases, legislative updates, changes in domestic violence law and best practices in Juvenile Court. We will also have a renowned psychiatrist discussing "The Scientific Basis for Parental Alienation." Don’t miss this opportunity to brush up on the intangibles, develop new tools and meet lawyers of a similar focus. Here are the key details:

When: Wednesday, May 15, Registration begins at 8:30 a.m.
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
read more »

U.S. Senate Democrats Support Increase, Changes to Child Tax Credits

U.S. Senate Democrats are rallying around a bill that intends to make strides in tackling child poverty, reports. Initially introduced in 2017, the American Family Act would expand the child tax credit to $3,000 per year for income-qualifying families with a child ages six to 16, and $3,600 per year for families with a child aged from zero to five. The benefits would be distributed monthly, in advance, to help the families with budgeting concerns.

read more »

TDHS Announces Increase for Child Care Assistance

The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) on Monday announced that it will raise the weekly reimbursement rates for providers in its Child Care Certificate Program for the first time in over a decade.  The program – Smart Steps — aids parents who are working or pursuing secondary education who meet certain eligibility requirements, and teen parents enrolled in high school. Regarding the increase, TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes said: “Quality child care is essential to the development of children … These rate increases are a specific investment in Tennessee’s community of child care providers and will promote access to early childhood environments that are safe, healthy and educationally rich.” The new rates will see a 35 percent increase for infant and toddler care and a 20 percent increase for pre-school and school-age care.

read more »

Gov. Lee Proposes School Voucher Program

Gov. Bill Lee's plan to create an education savings account program for Tennessee students may shape up to be one of the more controversial proposals addressed in his first State of the State address, The Tennessean reports. The program would use public funds to create a spending account, where the money can then be used for private school or homeschooling. Detractors argue that this takes money away from schools that need it the most and that the funds are better used for other services like tutoring or private lessons. Lee said he hopes to provide 5,000 students in low-performing districts access to state funds, with each student receiving about $7,300. 

read more »

Grundy Co. Pastor Pleas Guilty to Attempted Rape of a Child

The Grundy County pastor accused of child molestation on Friday pleaded guilty to a charge of attempted rape of a child and was sentenced to more than nine years in prison, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. William E. "Tim" Smith Jr., who led the Palmer Church of God, was arrested last May after deputies found him in a church parking lot with a 12-year-old girl in his truck, with both Smith and the girl in some stage of undress when the officers found them. Smith was also found in possession of Schedule II prescription drugs, however, those charges were dropped.

read more »

Legislation Affecting Family Law Practice

As the legislative session progresses, many bills of interest to family law practitioners are on the move. Here is a list of notable legislation which has the potential to affect your practice area:
A pilot program to provide child care payments to eligible relative caregivers. Requires the department of children's services to establish a three-year pilot program to provide child care payments to eligible relative caregivers. 

Granting of custody to a relative caregiver. Requires a court that issues orders granting custody or guardianship of children to relative caregivers to inform the relative caregiver that resources and funding may be available through the department of children's services. 

Grandparent visitation. Requires court-ordered grandparent visitation rights include at least two visits per month, with a provision that less frequent visitation may be agreed to by the grandparent.

As introduced, increases the punishment for a conviction of aggravated rape of a child from 15 to 60 years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000 to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Revises stepparent visitation rights. Declares that in the event a stepparent or former petitions for visitation with the stepchild or former stepchild, the court shall set a hearing for visitation if a parent of custodian opposes the visitation, by the circumstance of a divorce or court of another state declares visitation, amongst others. 

Statute of limitations - sexual offenses against children. Deletes the statute of limitations for prosecution of certain Class A or Class B felony sexual offenses committed against a child on or after July 1, 2019. 

Child Support Cooperation Act. Establishes the Child Support Cooperation Act which reduces child poverty and dependency by ensuring that parents cooperate with state efforts to collect child support for their children, as authorized by federal law. 

Requires equal division of guardian ad litem fees in adoptions. Requires that guardian ad litem fees in a pending adoption matter be divided equally between the parties, and requires billing of the indigent party's fees to the administrative office of the court's claims and payment system and bill the remaining parties at the same rate. 

As introduced, requires that a child who is charged with a delinquent act that could qualify the child as a violent juvenile sexual offender must be given verbal and written notice of the violent juvenile sexual offender registration requirements at least 48 hours in advance of a hearing on whether the child committed such act.

Removes statute of limitations on Class A or B felony sexual offenses committed against children. Removes statute of limitations on Class A or B felony sexual offenses committed against children.

As introduced, makes various changes to zero to three courts, including adding five additional courts, extending such courts to January 1, 2025, and allowing such courts to reinstate a revoked or suspended driver license of a party to an action before the court and waive unpaid fines and fees based on the party's satisfactory progress toward meeting the goals of the court.

SB719/HB854 (TBA BILL)
The court allowed to exercise domestic relations jurisdiction. Allows a court to exercise domestic relations jurisdiction regardless of the nature of the allegations until a pleading is filed or relief is sought in a juvenile court invoking its exclusive original jurisdiction.

As introduced, expands the kinship foster care program beyond the placement of children with relatives to include placement with fictive kin; authorizes fictive kin participating in kinship foster care program to receive foster care payments and benefits.

Extends statute of limitations on certain child sexual assault cases. Extends statute of limitations on child sexual assault cases where a crime was not reported to law enforcement within three years of the occurrence.

As introduced, extends civil and criminal statutes of limitation for certain acts of abuse against minors; increases the penalty for intentional failure to report child abuse or child sexual abuse.

Religious or moral exemptions for private child-placing agencies. Prohibits, to the extent allowed by federal law, requiring privately owned child placing agencies participating in the placement of a child in foster care or adoption if that would violate the agency's moral or religious convictions. 

Defines a guardian for purposes of criminal injuries compensation. Defines guardian for purposes of criminal injuries compensation. Broadly captioned.

Altering a child's school enrollment with intent to hinder an active child abuse investigation. Creates the Class A misdemeanor offense of withdrawing, transferring, or altering a child's school enrollment with intent to hinder an active child abuse or child neglect investigation creates the Class E felony offense of moving a child in such circumstances out of state.

As introduced, requires the commissioner of children's services to provide a report to the district attorney general with jurisdiction following a fatality or near fatality of certain children; requires an immediate investigation into a report of child abuse from a party tasked with the education or health and welfare of the child.

Addresses grandparents' rights. Requires a grandparent who has a significant existing relationship with a grandchild to be a party to any termination of the parental rights of that grandparent's child.

As introduced, clarifies the priority an employer, person, corporation, or institution must give to all orders of income assignment against an individual for a child, medical, or spousal support; removes references to the Tennessee Judicial Council, which terminated June 30, 2009.
read more »

Tennessee Commission to End Domestic & Sexual Violence to Offer Free Legal Clinics in Cookeville

The Tennessee Commission to End Domestic & Sexual Violence will hold free legal clinics in Cookeville on Feb. 27 and 28. Volunteer lawyers will meet with attendees to offer legal advice on various issues, including immigration, housing, family problems, education and other civil legal needs. Walk-ins are welcome at these clinics. For more information, including how to volunteer, visit the agency's website or call 615-386-9406.
When: Feb. 27, 12 – 4 p.m. and 6 – 8 p.m., EST; Feb. 28, 9 a.m. – 4 p.m., EST
Where: Family Justice Center, 269 South Willow Ave., Suite E, Cookeville
read more »