May 2016 - Vol. 52, No. 5

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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Confusion/Clarity

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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News

TBA Earns Top Pro Bono Award for MLP

The Tennessee Bar Association on April 7 was awarded the Pro Bono Advocacy Award in Medical-Legal Partnership from the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service. The award was presented in recognition of the TBA’s outstanding leadership in promoting medical-legal partnerships to the legal community, engaging volunteer lawyers and identifying and building relationships within the medical profession, in part through the formation of a Medical-Legal Partnership Working Group.

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Passages

Retired Maryville attorney ROY D. CRAWFORD died March 20. He was 94. Following service in World War II, Crawford graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Law in 1948. He practiced in Maryville until 2000, when he retired at age 79. Crawford also represented Blount County in the Tennessee Senate from 1961 to 1966.

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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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