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
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General-Solo FastTrack 2019

The TBA General-Solo & Small Firm Practitioners Section has selected the dates for its annual favorite FastTrack series held in all three grand divisions. The FastTrack program allows for a 15-hour CLE opportunity, featuring diverse topics designed to be relevant to a wide range of practice areas. Attendees can receive seven hours of live credit at each forum, then enjoy eight prepaid CLE credits to use for any online programming. Stay tuned for more details!
When: Aug. 2, Memphis; Aug. 9-10 and Nov. 8, Nashville;  Aug. 23, Knoxville
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Adoption Law Section Legislation on the Move

The TBA Adoption Law Section proposed two pieces of legislation to the 111th General Assembly — SB0207/HB0288 allowing for the modification and enforcement of a contract for post-adoption contact between certain parties, and SB0208/HB0287 which makes several amendments to Tenn. Code Ann. Title 36, Chapter 1, Part 1; Title 36, Chapter 2 and Section 37-1-102. Both of the section’s bills have passed the Senate with no objections. The House will consider the legislation in its next session this Thursday, March 7, 2019. If enacted, it will be requested that the bills go into effect with the governor’s signature, prior to the normal enactment date of July 1. Stay tuned for more info.

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Fewer Tennessee Cases Will Require ICPC Approval

On Dec. 12, 2018, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services issued the following significant statement regarding the Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC):
“After consideration of Article VIII and Regulation 10, the Tennessee ICPC office will no longer be processing ICPC packets for children in full guardianship when the non-agency placement is in Tennessee when full guardianship is ordered. The Tennessee ICPC office will continue to process ICPC requests for children in partial guardianship or guardianship of an agency.”
This is a big change, so let’s unpack it. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children, codified in Tennessee at Tenn. Code Ann. 37-4-201, et. seq. states in Article VIII as follows:
This compact shall not apply to:
(a)  The sending or bringing of a child into a receiving state by the child's parent, stepparent, grandparent, adult brother or sister, adult uncle or aunt, or the child's guardian and leaving the child with any such relative or non-agency guardian in the receiving state.
Tennessee and some other states provide prospective adoptive parents with guardianship as part of the adoption process. Article VIII places non-agency guardians outside the applicability of ICPC without any distinction between the sorts of guardianships existing in the various states. Many state ICPC administrators dismiss the “lighter” versions of guardianship granted to adoptive parents, asserting that only a complete guardianship or guardianship with a right of consent is the sort of guardianship that Article VIII intended to reference. Other ICPC administrators disregard the guardianship exception altogether.  
In Tennessee, prospective adoptive parents routinely obtain court-ordered guardianship of a child following either a birth parent’s judicial consent or judicial termination of rights.  Upon termination of all legal parents’ and putative father’s rights, and upon review of the prospective adoptive parents’ home study, a Tennessee court may grant an order of “Complete Guardianship” to prospective adoptive parents. This is also commonly called “full guardianship." This complete guardianship is very broad and includes a “right to consent” to the adoption. Granting guardianship to prospective adoptive parents is not new, but has been part of Tennessee law and practice for 30 years or more.  
In non-agency cases, where a child is sent from Tennessee in the complete guardianship of prospective adoptive parents, the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services will no longer require or process an ICPC package. This is not inconsistent with the ICPC, but entirely compliant with the ICPC, which by its terms do not apply to a non-agency guardian bringing a child into their home state to adopt.  
In private newborn adoptions, a guardianship order is normally entered at a birth parent’s judicial “surrender” hearing. If there is no Tennessee surrender hearing, for example, and another state’s extra-judicial adoption consent document is used, in most cases, the prospective adoptive parents will not have an opportunity to secure an order of complete guardianship from a Tennessee court and therefore, will not become guardians under Tennessee law.  
ICPC still applies to Tennessee private adoptions when, for any reason, the prospective adoptive parents do not have a court order of complete guardianship. ICPC also still applies to children who are in the guardianship of an agency.  
Tennessee permits non-resident prospective adoptive parents to return to Tennessee to finalize their adoption if a Tennessee court gave the prospective adoptive family complete guardianship of the child.  
The recently announced change is significant. Some transitional education and confusion are to be expected. But the net effect is a reduction in legal fees and length of travel for many non-resident prospective adoptive families. 

Dawn Coppock is a frequent speaker, writer and consultant on the subject of adoption in Tennessee and nationally. She is certified as a Juvenile-Child Welfare Specialist and a Family Law Mediator and is a Fellow in the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys and is the author of Coppock on Tennessee Adoption Law, published by LexisNexis, now in its 6th edition.

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Legislation Regarding Adoption and Juvenile Law

As the legislative session progresses, many bills of interest to advocates of children are on the move. Here is a list of notable legislation that 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. 

SB54/HB122 (Expected to change.)
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 courts 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 (Tennessee Bar Association 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 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.
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Tennessee Ranks at the Top of Training to Spot Child Sexual Abuse

Tennessee is at the forefront of an initiative to prevent child sexual abuse, with almost 12,000 adults trained to spot the warning signs of exploitation, The Rutherford Source reports. An annual evaluation by the Darkness to Light organization lists three child welfare groups in the state — Memphis Child Advocacy Center, Children’s Advocacy Centers of Tennessee and Child Advocacy Center of Rutherford County Inc. — that made the group’s top 10 list on completed training. “Little children continue to courageously disclose horrific stories of abuse every day at Child Advocacy Centers across the nation and here in Rutherford and Cannon Counties," Child Advocacy Center Director Sharon De Boer said. " Many of those children first disclosed the abuse to a trusted adult trained in the Darkness to Light Stewards of Children curriculum.”

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Advocates Push Back on Religious Exemption Adoption Bill

Legislation proposed by State Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, that allows Tennessee providers to deny adoptions to same-sex couples on religious grounds has been met with consternation from not only LGBT proponents, but social workers as well, The Daily News Journal reports. Opponents of Rudd’s bill point to the fact that the state has around 8,000 children in foster care, of which only about half will be placed in foster families and contend that the measure creates more unnecessary barriers in guaranteeing these children find homes. Rudd maintains that his bill is not discriminatory, rather prevents faith-based organizations from ceasing services because of lawsuits, and that LGBT families can still pursue adoptions through non-faith-based organizations. "Nowhere in this bill does it say anything about outlawing anyone from adopting," said Rudd when asked about his measure. "It's simply protecting the constitutional rights of religious freedom from being persecuted."

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Gov. Lee Provides Avenue for Public Feedback on Legislation

Gov. Bill Lee has taken an additional step in his commitment to “an open and transparent government,” creating a webpage for the public to view and provide feedback on legislation that has been submitted to him for consideration. Lee maintains that involving Tennesseans into the process more directly will increase accountability in how laws are made. The site will be updated regularly, as bills pass the Legislature and land on his desk.

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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
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TBA to Introduce Legal Document Generation

The TBA will soon launch a new subscription-based product for Tennessee lawyers — automated legal forms. The initiative will use HotDocs, a custom documentation generator that creates form templates and speeds up the preparation process based on client and case data. In order to provide this valuable resource to our members, we hope to obtain your comments and ideas on forms you deem beneficial for replication. With across-the-board participation, we can comprise a substantive, comprehensive database where subscribers will have access to forms submitted by all TBA sections. Please send suggestions and comments to TBA Membership Director Mindy Fulks.

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Insurance Solutions for You, Your Family & Your Firm

TBA Member Insurance Solutions is your full service insurance agency offering you experience, accessibility and personal attention with great customer service. We have a wide range of plans for your firm, as well as for you and your family. And, with access to many top-rated carriers, we can provide you with plans tailored to meet your specific needs. Call 800-347-1109, email or visit us at
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Tennessee General Assembly to Consider Religious Exemptions for Adoption Agencies

The Tennessee General Assembly is set to consider several bills that would allow agencies to deny adoptions to gay couples based on religious objections, The Tennessean reports. Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, have sponsored one such bill, HB1152/SB0848, which as introduced specifies that a child-placing agency shall not be required to provide adoption services that conflict with the agency's sincerely held religious beliefs. It joins similar bills sponsored Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, and Sen. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon. The measures are comparable to legislation passed in Kansas and Oklahoma just last year. When asked about his bill, Hensley said: "There's a lot of other adoption agencies that are not religious-based … There's certainly other options for people who want to adopt."

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Legislators File Bills Targeting LGBT Adoptions

Multiple bills filed this week in the Tennessee General Assembly would allow adoption agencies to deny services to same-sex couples based on religious objections, The Tennessean reports. One bill, filed by Sen. Joey Hensley, R-Hohenwald, and Rep. John Ragan, R-Oak Ridge, specifies that an adoption agency would not be required to provide services to a couple if it would conflict with the agency's "sincerely held religious beliefs," and prevents the state or a local government from taking adverse action against the group. Legislation filed by Rep. Tim Rudd, R-Murfreesboro, puts in place similar protections for discrimination based on religious beliefs and would prevent a couple from suing the adoption agency for refusing to provide services.
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Tomorrow: TBA Adoption Law Forum 2019

Don’t miss the TBA Adoption Law Forum 2019, which will be held at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville tomorrow, March 6. This year’s forum will feature information on recent changes to adoption law, including a case law update from Department of Children’s Services attorneys. We will also examine ICPC, host an interactive ethics panel and end the day with a networking reception, allowing you to meet TBA and section leadership. Lunch is included with registration. Don’t sleep on this opportunity to obtain CLE credit and build relationships with colleagues of a similar focus. Here are the key details:
When: Wednesday, March 6, registration at 11:30 a.m., CST
Where: Tennessee Bar Center, 221 Fourth Ave. N., Nashville
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DHS Seeks Assistance With Summer Food Service Program

The Tennessee Department of Human Services will open the application process to those willing to assist with the agency’s Summer Food Service Program on Friday, Feb. 1. The program seeks to ensure that children 18 and younger who benefit from school meal programs have access to nutritious food during the summer months. Applications will be accepted from organizations, governmental entities, schools, religious entities, and non-profit residential camps interested in sponsoring the program and serving meals to children in their communities — with an emphasis on Bedford, Cheatham, Hickman, Humphreys, Moore, and Wayne Counties, which did not have sponsors last year. Applications will be accepted until May 1. You can learn more detailed information, including how to apply using this link.

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Michigan AG Seeks Settlement in Same-Sex Adoption Case

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel hopes to reach a settlement in the ongoing lawsuit regarding funding for faith-based adoption agencies that refuse to place foster children with same-sex couples, The Detroit News reports. Nessel — who is the state’s first openly gay attorney general — made concerns surrounding legislation passed in 2015 that allows agencies in the state to deny services that conflict with their beliefs an integral part of her platform, saying that she probably wouldn’t defend the law. The lawsuit was filed September of last year by the ACLU on behalf of two gay couples who were denied adoptions based on their sexuality. Federal District Judge Paul Borman granted a 30-day stay for the parties to come to an agreement in the case.

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DCS Requests Additional Funding for Children Affected by the Opioid Crisis

The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services (DCS) on Monday asked Gov. Bill Lee for an additional $78.2 million in part to compensate for the uptick in children affected by the opioid crisis, The Chattanooga Times Free Press reports. "Since 2016, there's been a 10.3 percent increase in the number of kids in foster care … I would say there are approximately 1,000 more children in custody, and this request will help pay and match the federal funds," said DCS Commissioner Jennifer Nichols. Lee appeared to agree with the assessment, recognizing that the surge in DCS intervention could stem from the rise of drug addiction in the state. The agency has requested $825.7 million for its 2019-2020 budget — including the $78.2 million that will be used for TennCare funding, adoption assistance programs and for the "Safe Baby Courts" program, among others.

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TBA Legislative Agenda – Adoption Law

Sen. Ferrell Haile, R-Gallatin, and Rep. Mike Carter, R-Ooltewah, introduced two bills today, drafted by members of the TBA Adoption Law Section, and supported by the TBA. SB207/HB288 allows biological parents and adoptive parents to enter into an enforceable, written contract for post-adoption contact that permits continued contact between legal relatives and the child. SB208/HB287 is a Corrections/Clean up bill for the TN: First in Adoption Act, enacted in 2018. The TBA Governmental Affairs team will work with legislators to pass these bills and have them signed into law by Governor Lee.
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Shelby Commission to Consider Money for New Juvenile Detention Center

At their first committee sessions of the new year on Jan. 9, Shelby County commissioners will discuss $25 million for a new Juvenile Court detention center to be run by the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office, The Daily Memphian reports. The meeting will include discussions beyond the building itself, as some commissioners still want some oversight of Juvenile Court to replace six years of U.S. Justice Department oversight that ended in October.
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Office Space Available at Tennessee Bar Center

There is now office space available for lease at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville, 221 4th Ave North. The historic building is located downtown in the business district north of Broadway. It has 19,622 RSF available in several configurations on several floors. Click here for more details as well as contact information.
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Lt. Gov. McNally Wants to Eliminate Statute of Limitations for Child Sex Crimes

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said this week he would support legislation to eliminate the statute of limitations on felony child sex abuse crimes in Tennessee, The Tennessean reports. He also said he would back a temporary window for reviving expired civil claims related to child sex abuse cases. Support on such measures from the high-ranking lawmaker bolsters efforts underway to give victims more time to come forward and hold their abusers accountable. It also could have financial implications if offenders and their organizations, like the Catholic Church, are found civilly liable for past actions. 
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Join Us Today: LAW TECH

Today's the day! Discover the newest technology for your law practice and law office at this year's Law Tech Blast at the Tennessee Bar Center in Nashville!

The flexible open house format allows you to create your own schedule. You can attend CLE sessions, enter to win prizes, network with attendees, visit with sponsors and interact with speakers. Take as many or as few CLE hours as you need. Only those seeking to be awarded CLE Credit will be charged. The registration desk will be open all day, so you can come and go for the hours you need when it is convenient for you. Attendees can earn up to 6.5 hours of Dual CLE credit.

  • GDPR, Cloud and Technological Competency
  • The Bill and Phil Tech Show 2019: BEAT THE CLOCK
  • Best Practices: Information Security for Firms
  • Judicial Panel: Technology in the Courtroom
  • Know When to Hold 'Em
  • Digital Evidence – A Technical Life Raft for the Legal Mind
  • Make it Rain: Ethics Guidelines and Practice Essentials

ATTEND TO WIN: Attendees will have a chance to win prizes, including an iPad Pro. The tech prize drawing will be held at the 10:30 a.m. break. Must be present to win.

TAKE A LYFT: TBA has partnered with Lyft to offer attendees a discounted ride.

  • New to Lyft?: Get $5 off 2 rides at or download the app and enter code LAWTECH5
  • Already Have Lyft?: Save 10% off 2 rides to or from Law Tech Blast with code LAWTECH



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Give the Gift of TBA Membership

Give yourself (or a friend) the gift that keeps giving — one-year of unlimited access to professional development opportunities and a number of programs and services designed to help you become a better practitioner. Founded in 1881, the Tennessee Bar Association is dedicated to enhancing fellowship among members of the state's legal community. Oh, and did we mention some of the benefits? Earn three pre-paid credits to use on any live or online course featured in the 12-days of CLE. Join now!

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Le Bonheur President and CEO Announces Retirement

President and CEO of Le Bonheur Children's Hospital Meri Armour will be retiring from the position after more than a decade of leading the hospital, which has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as a Best Children's Hospital nationwide, the Memphis Business Journal reports. Armour oversaw Le Bonheur as it grew into a national institution, making strides to improve its medical care, facilities and fundraising efforts. She was also a key figure in the hospital opening a 225-bed facility in the Memphis Medical District. 

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Best Twitter Accounts for Legal Issues

Looking for some great social media follows? The American Bar Association is out with its list of best legal Twitter accounts of 2018. Included for the first time this year is @inspiredcat, the account of Vanderbilt Law School professor Cat Moon. Members can also always keep up locally with the TBA at our Twitter accounts, @TennesseeBar, @TennBarJournal or @TBAYLD.

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