Family law covers a wide range of topics: adoptions, establishing paternity, regaining or modifying custody, department of children’s services actions, dependency and neglect, setting and modifying child support, parental relocation. The list goes on. In family law, unlike many other areas of litigation, what’s at stake is far more important than dollars and cents, and that’s why you need to find the best family law attorney possible to handle your case.
I have extensive experience handling family law cases in the Knoxville, Tennessee area, and in courts across eastern Tennessee. Family law cases can range from collaborative efforts to effectuate positive change, to good faith disagreements about what is in a child’s best interest, to, unfortunately, bitter disagreements about where a child should live. These cases are usually fact-intensive, and concern many months, or years, of history between all the people involved in the case. It follows then that oftentimes the best way to resolve family law matters is through a collaborative process called mediation. Depending on the circumstances of your particular case, that may seem impossible – however, Tennessee law will require that you attempt to mediate your family law case in all but the most extraordinary circumstances.
The typical family law case is a perfect example of the seemingly backwards nature of law as a whole: people have an issue which requires them to go to court for relief, but almost no one wants to have a trial and be told what to do by a judge. Mediation is a collaborate process that has emerged from that reality. The people involved in a lawsuit sit in separate rooms with their attorneys, and a neutral, specially trained attorney works with all sides of the dispute to facilitate a resolution. This process has been so successful that it is required in almost every case before a trial can occur. At mediation, my role is to advise you of the laws applicable to your particular case, to ensure that any mediated agreement is fair.
The vast majority of family law cases involve children – or, to be even more inclusive, involve individuals not capable of caring for themselves. Accordingly, the judge presiding over the case will be solely concerned with ensuring an outcome that is in the best interest of the minor child, children, or individual needing care. Events that have occurred over the months or years preceding the litigation will very likely be relevant in the eyes of the court. Sometimes, this history is favorable to my clients, sometimes it is anything but. What I make clear to my family law clients at an initial consultation is that my job is to present the facts of their case – whatever they may be – in the best way possible. My client’s job is to not create new facts during the pendency of the case that would reflect poorly upon them.
What constitutes a ‘bad fact’ may not always be clear. That is why the core of my practice is educating my clients on the legal framework in which their particular case is situated. By way of example, one of the legal factors a judge is required to consider when determining a residential schedule between parents of a minor child is ‘each parent’s ability to facilitate and encourage a close and continuing parent-child relationship between the child and the other parent’. In other words, it’s generally a bad idea for one parent to tell a child that the other parent is a crazy person. What I have found, is that it’s much easier for clients to act in a manner consistent with what is expected of them under Tennessee law if they actually know what those laws say. Given the incredibly broad scope of family law in Tennessee, I can’t begin to do that here. So, I encourage you to set up a consultation with me to discuss the particularities of your case.