Articles Posted in Family Law

In a recent Tennessee Court of Appeals decision, Luker v. Luker, M2018-00138-COA-R3-CV (Tenn. Ct. App.2018), the Court addressed whether a respondent in an Order of Protection case had a right to conduct discovery in order to prepare for the hearing.  The typical Order of Protection case is set for a hearing within fifteen (15) days of the respondent being served.  Once served, typically an ex parte order of protection is issued, which many believed was intended to protect the petitioner from harm.

In Luker, the Court of Appeals stated, much differently, that the requirement of a hearing within 15 days was intended to protect the respondent from frivolous ex parte orders of protection and not intended for the protection of the petitioner.  The Court also stated that it saw no barrier to a respondent requesting that the hearing be put for a definite period of time in order to request reasonable discovery as long as the ex parte order remained in place.  The catch in the Court’s opinion is that discovery would be granted at the trial court’s discretion, meaning that the ability to conduct discovery in an order of protection case would be decided on a case-by-case and court-by-court basis.

This opinion is extremely important because of the nature of order of protection cases.  Respondent’s get served with an order and have a court date set in a matter of days.  The petitions for an order of protection are also notoriously vague and tend not to provide dates of incidents or name potential witnesses.  Discovery in such cases allows a respondent to request more detailed information in the allegations so that they may properly develop a defense to each specific claim.

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On April 29, the Tennessee Legislature passed a bill that will allow a mother to be prosecuted for causing a child to be born addicted or harmed because of her illegal use of narcotics during the pregnancy. The bill will allow a woman to be prosecuted for assault if the infant she is carrying is harmed or dies. The bill has an unusual sunset provision, which means that the criminal penalty will be in effect until 2016. After that time, the legislature will revisit the issue. Tennessee has criminalized drug use during pregnancy in the past, but opponents said the measure would prevent women from seeking prenatal treatment or from entering rehabilitation programs. The legislature decriminalized it for a few years, but with the use of prescription narcotics on the rise, the law has been revived.

Critics of the measure focus primarily on the rights of the mother, while supporters view that the health and safety of children should be a primary focus. In either case, the reality is children in Tennessee are being born addicted to drugs. Last year alone, there were 921 babies born dependent on prescription medication. This year, the number so far is 253 at the time of this post.

While all Tennesseans would agree that the state should protect infants from being born addicted or even from death due to the illegal actions of their mothers, the law raises some interesting questions, such as does it in fact deter women from seeking treatment? Should there be some kind of amnesty for a woman who willingly enters an addiction program to get better and protect her baby? Who will bear the cost of caring for the infant that is born to an incarcerated mother? What is the best interest of the child in all of this? Is incarceration or the fear of incarceration even a deterrent to a drug addict? What purpose does incarceration serve in preparing the woman to be a fit mother?

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Did you know that if you plead guilty even to a misdemeanor domestic assault in Tennessee you will be prohibited from not only owning a gun or other firearm but you cannot be involved in the sale of guns, firearms, and even ammunition?

Recently the United States Supreme Court ruled that an individual who is convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault in Tennessee may not possess or be involved in the commercial sale of firearms or ammunition.

Congress enacted §922(g)(9) to “close a dangerous loophole” in the gun control laws; while felons have been barred from possessing firearms, many persons convicted of misdemeanor domestic assault were still able to do so. The statute provides that any person who has been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence may not possess a firearm.