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Clarksville Legal Blog

Those facing domestic violence charges may need legal help

Sometimes, a person misunderstands what another person does or says. Usually all it takes to resolve the situation is for the people involved to simply have a conversation about the issue, so that they are both on the same page. However, some misunderstandings, unfortunately, can become highly emotional, with one or both parties becoming especially angry. In these cases, a person may get the police involved. They may allege they were physically harmed by the other party, resulting in an arrest. Being accused of domestic assault in Tennessee can impact a person's life for many years to come.

If a person is convicted of domestic assault, that person will be penalized in the same fashion as other assault crimes, with one exception. If a person commits domestic assault, that person will have violated the federal Lautenberg Amendment. By doing so, that person will have permanently lost the ability to possess a gun. There may also be other penalties as well.

Changes could be coming to student loans and bankruptcy

The student loan debt crisis is having a major effect on college graduates in Tennessee and throughout the nation. Young adults took out tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to finance their college education. However, due to a downturn in the economy and stagnant wages, they were unable to find jobs post-graduation that allowed them to pay back their student loans. This, in turn, led many individuals to default on their student loan payments, leading to demanding phone calls from collection agencies threatening to take legal action if the debts are not paid. When a person's finances spiral out-of-control, they may want to file for bankruptcy so that they can have a fresh financial start. Unfortunately, traditionally student loans were ineligible for discharge through bankruptcy. However, the Department of Education may soon change that.

Currently, the only way to have student loan debt discharged through bankruptcy is for the debtor to prove that paying back the loans would place an "undue hardship" on the filer. However, the U.S. Department of Education never gave a specific definition of what an undue hardship was, and neither had case law. Courts turn to the "Brunner Test," in which debtors must show that if they must pay back their student loans over the course of their repayment period, they would be unable to sustain a basic standard of living. They also must show that they have taken steps to try to pay back their federal student loans.

How does the new tax law affect spousal support?

If you are a divorced Tennessee resident who pays or receives spousal support, a/k/a alimony, you may have heard rumors that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that Congress passed late last year and President Trump signed into law on Dec. 22, 2017, changes how those payments are treated with respect to federal income taxes. These rumors are true. While the new law does not affect the income tax returns you are in the process of preparing to file on or before April 15, 2018, everything could change for you next year.

The new law eliminates the so-called alimony deduction for those paying spousal support to their ex-spouse. It also eliminates the requirement that spousal support recipients must claim their payments as income. However, the new law does not apply to all such payors and payees.

U.S. Supreme Court will not hear same-sex child custody case

There are many different ways a same-sex couple in Tennessee can have a child. One option they may choose is to have a child using a sperm donor via artificial insemination. However, this brings up issues regarding child custody if the parents get a divorce.

According to news reports, an issue regarding same-sex marriage law will not be heard by the United States Supreme Court. At issue was the parental rights of a lesbian couple who had divorced. The question concerned whether a child born while the couple was married using a sperm donor was the legal child of the parent that did not give birth to him. The lower court ruled that the non-biological parent was the child's legal parent, as the child was born while the couple was married.

Can a criminal record in Tennessee be expunged?

Having a criminal record can seriously affect a person in Tennessee, even if they are ultimately found not guilty of the charges. A criminal record could impose a significant barrier when it comes to finding a job, securing housing or seeking higher education. For some people, however, it is possible to have their criminal record expunged.

When a criminal legal record is expunged, this means that the person is lawfully able to deny that they ever had a criminal record. It will generally be wiped out in the eyes of the law.

A person can face assault charges in a number of circumstances

It is not unusual for people in Tennessee to fight about something. Oftentimes these fights are mere arguments that are ultimately resolved without further incident. However, sometimes a fight escalates to the point where it becomes physical. When this happens, a person may face assault charges.

Under Tennessee Code section 39-13-101, assault takes place under a number of circumstances. First, a person commits assault if they intentionally, knowingly or recklessly do something that injures someone else. However, even if no injury occurs, it could still be possible to be charged with assault. This is because assault also includes situations in which a person intentionally or knowingly leads someone to reasonably fear that they will imminently be injured. Also, not all instances of assault involve injuries. This is because a person will have committed assault if he or she intentionally or knowingly lead someone else to be physically touched, and a reasonable individual would have found the touch to be provocative or extremely offensive.

What constitutes domestic assault in Tennessee?

It is normal for family members or romantic partners in Tennessee to argue occasionally, even if they love each other. When disagreements arise, oftentimes people are able to talk it out without further incident. However, sometimes an argument becomes so heated that one side or the other starts making accusations of domestic violence. This is a very serious situation.

Per Tennessee law, domestic assault involves an intentional or reckless act that injures another or that leads another to believe they will be injured or offensively touched. To constitute domestic assault, the crime must be committed against either a current or former spouse, people who live in the same household together, romantic or sexual partners, relatives -- including in-laws or former in-laws -- or children of any of the aforementioned persons.

Bankruptcy can open the door to a brighter financial future

Financial certainty can turn into financial disaster in a split-second. A person in Tennessee could be unexpectedly laid off due to corporate downsizing, leading to a loss of income and an inability to pay their bills. Or, a person could be the victim of a car accident or a sudden, severe illness, that leaves them with a mountain of medical debt that they cannot overcome. People in these situations may try to rely on credit cards to make ends meet, but that will only exasperate their financial difficulties when their balances accumulate and they have no way to pay them off.

Situations like this may seem hopeless. It is a terrible position to be in when a person must choose between food and electricity, gas to go to work or paying rent or their mortgage. It may seem like the downward spiral of debt may never end.

Same-sex couples should consider pre-nups or post-nups

When same-sex marriage became legal in the United States, many same-sex couples rushed to the altar to finally enjoy a fundamental right they had been denied. Unfortunately, some of these marriages were not well-thought out, and some couples later faced a messy divorce. However, what we can learn from the situation is that by executing a prenuptial agreement or postnuptial agreement, same-sex couples in Tennessee can protect their financial interests should their marriage not last.

A prenuptial agreement is essentially a contract a couple enters into prior to getting married. It addresses how assets and debts will be divided should the couple divorce. It can also address how spousal support will be handled should the couple divorce. However, prenuptial agreements are not just about divorce. They can also address other issues, such as disability, death and inheritances. Moreover, they serve as a good way for couples to talk about how they want to handle their finances and raise a family. These discussions can form a firm foundation for a couple's marriage.

An overview of the plea agreement process in Tennessee

When a person is accused of a crime, sometimes it is in their best interests to enter into a plea agreement rather than go through a jury trial. In Tennessee, it is permissible for the district attorney and the lawyer of the accused to engage in discussions without the involvement of the court in order to reach a plea agreement. In a plea agreement, the accused can agree to plead guilty to either the charges against them or to a lesser offense, in exchange for certain acts.

One of these acts is having the charges against the accused dismissed. Another act is having the district attorney general recommend a specific sentence or permit the accused to request a specific sentence. Finally, the district attorney can agree that a certain sentence is an appropriate choice.

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