May 2016 - Vol. 52, No. 5


The Tennessee Supreme Court appointed former judge and Williamson County attorney Robert E. Lee Davies to the position of senior judge. Davies practices family law, personal injury and business litigation and also teaches family law at Nashville School of Law. He previously served from 2000 to 2008 as a circuit court judge in the 21st Judicial District. Senior judges are employed by the Supreme Court to hear cases in which other judges cannot serve because of a conflict, or in courts where there is a vacancy.

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A State of Confusion and a Need for Clarity

The Fallout from Culbertson I and II

In Tennessee, trial courts have a duty to protect the best interests of children.[1] As early as 1918, the Tennessee Supreme Court acknowledged that the state has a right “paramount to any parental or other claim[] to dispose of such children as their best interests require” and that “the legal rights of a parent are very gravely considered[] but are not enforced to the disadvantage of the child.”[2] Thus, in any proceeding requiring the court to make a custody determination, trial courts must make such determinations according to the best interests of the child.[3] This statutory requireme

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In the ongoing efforts to protect the children of a divorce, much conflict has arisen in the law regarding the handling of parents’ mental health records in their litigation.  Among lawyers and mental health professionals, two strong camps of thought exist on the topic:  The first is that the counseling and mental health records of a parent are sacrosanct and should be protected and held confidential at all costs, and the second is that the confidentiality of those records should be set aside when litigating the best interest of a child.

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Culbertson – The Court of Appeals Got It Right

The issues faced by the Court of Appeals in addressing parents’ mental health records are complex. Our courts do have a duty to protect the best interest of children.[1] Important as this may be, this is not the only duty that the courts have. They must also take into account a need to respect patient privacy, encourage individuals to seek treatment, focus on a parent’s actual current ability to care for his or her children and not retroactively withdraw promises of confidentiality.

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