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What You Must Do to Continue Being a Part of Your Grandchildren’s’ Lives, Should the Children’s Parents Become Addicted to Opiates or Any Drug.

When parents become addicted to drugs often the Department of Children’s Services (DCS), files a lawsuit asking the Court to declare a child or children as being dependent and neglected as defined by T.C.A. § 37-1-102(b)(12), and that the child be safety placed appropriately.

As grandparents of a child, without a legal guardianship over the child, you have neither parental rights nor legal custodial rights. Additionally, as non-parties to a juvenile dependency and neglect case, DCS is prohibited from giving you specific information pertaining to the case. Most importantly, should DCS file a subsequent petition to terminate the parent’s rights, you as the children’s grandparents, will be barred from intervening in the action, unless you have already been designated as the legal guardian or custodian of the child. This means that the rights of the grandparents as well as those of the parents will be terminated in the parental termination proceeding. If your grandchildren are the subject of a dependency and neglect action, you must IMMEDIATELY file to become the legal guardian of the child or children concerned. This will allow you to intervene in the action filed by DCS and will prevent DCS from moving for termination in the first place.

In Re: C.H. is a case involving an interlocutory appeal from the Juvenile Court of Jefferson County, which was heard by the Tennessee Court of Appeals at Knoxville, filed January 31, 2017. The Court of Appeals ruled in that case, that the grandparents of the subject child were barred from intervening in a lawsuit to terminate the rights of the child’s parents filed by DCS, because the grandparents were not the legal guardians of the child and that their interests were adequately represented by that of the parents.

The Full Decision is Provided Here

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Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (931) 919-4376
Too often, grandparents become de facto parents to their grandchildren when the biological parents of the children become incapable of responsible parenting due to opioid drug abuse or any drug abuse. This article will be focusing on two points:
(1) Understanding the epidemic that has become opioid addiction and abuse in America, and what signs to look for should you suspect a loved one of such an addiction and
(2) What you will need to do legally as grandparents to protect your rights to continue to have your grandchildren in your lives, should the children’s parents become addicted to opiates or any drug.

Part one of this two-part article will discuss the epidemic of opioid addiction and the signs that may be exhibited by someone who is abusing or addicted. Part two of this essay will discuss what you must do should a parent start abusing or become addicted.

Opiate Addiction In America A Public Health Emergency
It is no secret that opiates have become the drug of choice for a huge segment of the American population, especially among young adults. In December of 2017, the National Center for Health Statistics conducted a study, and concluded that in 2016: opioid overdoses resulted in 42,249 deaths or an average of 116 deaths every day, that 2.1 million people had an opioid use disorder, that 11.5 million people misused opioid prescriptions (this is a conservative number as some sources cite anywhere from 26 million to 36 million believed to be abusing opioids), that 948,000 people used heroin, that 170,000 people used heroin for the first time, and that the cost to tax payers was 504 billion dollars. Sadder than the above statistics are the pharmaceutical companies that manufacture and benefit financially from this epidemic that they knowingly and willfully created.

In the late 1990s, pharmaceutical companies had specific knowledge that the opiates they were manufacturing and selling were highly addictive, however; they reassured the medical community that patients would not become addicted to opioid pain relievers. As a consequence, healthcare providers began to prescribe them at greater rate thereby increasing demand. The increased prescription of such medications led to widespread misuse of both prescription and non-prescription opioids before it become clear that these medications were extremely addictive and unsafe contrary to what pharmaceutical companies had claimed. The high number of deaths, persons addicted, and the cost to the taxpayers finally led the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in 2017 to declare a public health emergency and announce a 5-point strategy to combat the opioid addiction crisis.

An opiate is a chemical derived for opium. Opium is naturally occurring in the opium poppy plant and is a key ingredient in heroin. “Medicines” such as; codeine, vicodin, oxycodone, hydrocodone, and so on, are “opiate-like” because they mimic the effects of opium but are man-made and commonly referred to as “opioids”. Opioids work by attaching themselves to any of the millions of opiate receptors located in the brain and throughout the body. Opioids signal the brain to produce massive amounts of dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter present in regions of the brain that regulate movement, emotion, cognition, motivation, and feelings of pleasure. Specifically, opioids act on the limbic system, which controls emotions and is responsible for the release of chemicals such as dopamine which produces feelings of happiness and pleasure. Opioids also act the brainstem controlling things your body does automatically like breathing and coughing, and on the spinal cord which receives messages from the body before sending them to the brain, such as feelings of pain or discomfort. By overstimulating the brain and its associated systems, opioids produce a euphoric high in users.

The signs of opioid abuse and addiction will vary. Immediate signs of use while someone is under the influence can include some of the following exhibited behaviors or symptoms:

(1) Being Noticeably Euphoric or Happy
(2) Being Overly Energetic, Such That, the Person Cannot Sit Still
(3) Pupils That Are Constricted
(4) Drastic Mood Swings, Sometimes Described As “High-Highs” & “Low-Lows”
(5) Users May Become Itchy
(6) Once the Sense of Euphoria Subsides the Person May Seem Sedated or Very Tired
(7) Confusion
(8) Forgetfulness
(9) Nodding Off at Random Times or Loss of Consciousness
(10) A Slower Breathing Rate

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (931) 919-4376
If you are thinking of adding to your family through adoption of a child in the care of Tennessee Child Services, it is important to note that around 80 percent of children adopted from foster care are adopted by their current foster parents. In fact, the Department of Children’s Services gives adoption preference to families who are already caring for a child who becomes eligible for adoption and can be released from DCS custody.

Since these children may be vulnerable and definitely need a loving, stable environment, DCS imposes some preliminary requirements. Foster parents in Tennessee are automatically approved to adopt children, as the requirements for the fostering and adopting are the same. This makes it easier for foster parents to adopt the children they are caring for in a seamless transition.

The Requirements for Foster-Adoptive Parents in Tennessee Are:
  • Can Own or Rent a Home
  • Can Work Full Time
  • At Least 21 Years Old
  • Valid Tennessee Resident
  • Capable of Meeting Family’s Financial & Emotional Needs

Foster-adoptive parents can be married, single, or divorced, and there are no requirements or restrictions based on whether they already have children.

After verifying that you meet these requirements, you can move toward adopting a child who is in the custody or guardianship of DCS by completing a formal home study conducted by DCS.

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (931) 919-4376
Along with the requirements for adoptions found here (insert link), there are a few categories of people who are not allowed to adopt in Tennessee. This is designed with the best interest of the child in mind.

Who May Not Adopt?
  • One person of a married couple can not adopt without the other spouse adopting as well.
  • Two unmarried people can not adopt the same child. (Example: Adult raised by foster mother would like for the foster mother and a biological uncle to be her legal parents. Unless the foster mother and uncle are married to one another, this is not possible.
  • Sometimes a single parent, usually a mother, will want one of her relatives to adopt the child, terminating the birth father’s rights, but without terminating her own rights. While this may sometimes be in the best interest of the child, the requirement that both parents’ rights be terminated before adoption only excepts step parent adoptions, and therefore the desired adoption is not allowed.
  • A non-related person without a home study.
  • Dead people (Sometimes a grandmother, for example, will adopt and want her deceased husband included in the action. This is not allowed.)

Who Is A “Relative?”
Some of these limitations bring us to the question of who is a “relative?” Tennessee law tells us that “related” means grandparents or any degree of great-grandparents, aunts or uncles, or any degree of great-aunts or great-uncles, or stepparent, or cousins of the first degree or any siblings of the whole or half-degree or any spouse of the above listed relatives. If you are unsure whether you fall into this category, our office is happy to look at your family tree and let you know (it can get confusing)!

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (931) 919-4376
A case fromHamilton Countyreminds us thatTennessee Courtsput a high emphasis on your commitment to your child’s education. In this instance, a mother lost parenting time to the father because she emphasized a sport over the education of her children.

The parents were divorced in 2012. They were both named co-primary residential parents of their children, who were 11 and 7 years old at the time of trial. Each parent received equal visitation time. The parenting arrangements proved contentious, and the mother went back tocourtasking to be named the exclusive primary residential parent. The father made the same request, and the matter was set for acourthearing. After hearing, the trial court granted the father’s request.

At the time of the original divorce, both parents lived in North Chattanooga. The father remarried, had another daughter, and moved to Signal Mountain. The mother was living with a close friend, who was also the children’s pediatrician.

The mother was an avid rock climber who also coached rock climbing. The main issue at trial was whether the mother had neglected the children’s educational needs in favor of rock climbing.

The mother testified that rock climbing was a key part of the children’s lives. The father, on the other hand, believed that the rock climbing was being done to the exclusion of all other activities.

The trialcourtfound that the mother “seems obsessed with rock climbing,” and noted that the children normally participated in rock climbing before beginning their homework, which sometimes was not completed. It noted that the mother did not seem overly concerned with the children’s education.

After the father was named primary residential parent, the mother appealed to theTennessee Courtof Appeals, which first agreed that there had been a material change of circumstances. It then turned to the issue of whether the trialcourthad acted in the best interests of the children. It found that the most relevant factor in this case was the disposition of each parent to provide the child with food, clothing, medical care, education, and other necessary care.
The appealscourtthen reviewed the evidence and concluded that the evidence did not preponderate against the trialcourt’sfindings. The lowercourthad credited the father’s testimony that the mother had an excessive interest on rock climbing at the expense of other activities, including education.

This certainly does not mean that your children shouldn’t participate in sports. Rather, it reminds us that the courts expect a healthy balance between education and extracurricular activities. As in this case, if education is neglected you may be in danger of losing parenting time.

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.

Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (931) 919-4376
Religious dispute cases are few and far between.Courtsare understandably reluctant to delve into matters of religion. After all, the First Amendment generally gives parents the freedom to expose their children to whatever religious beliefs they choose. It also prohibits the government from favoring one religion over another. Nonetheless,courtshave an obligation to act when children are being harmed by parental conflict.

Consider the case of Lewis v. Parmerter in Sparta, Tennessee. When the parentsdivorced, the agreed parenting plan designated Mother as the primary residential parent and gave both parents joint decision-making authority regarding the children’s religious upbringing. Since thedivorce, the parties have filed numerous petitions for contempt, orders of protection, and motions to modify the parenting plan arising out of, among other disagreements, the control of their children and their religious beliefs. Much of this conflict centers around Father’s refusal or interference with his children participating in extracurricular activities, such as Scouts, football, and other sports which he claims violates his religious beliefs.

Tennessee lawprovides that where parents are unable to agree on matters of great importance regarding the welfare of the children, primary decision-making authority should be placed in one parent or the other. In the original parenting plan, the parties had joint decision-making authority. After reviewing the record, theappeals courtnoted the extent of disagreement between the parties concerning the spiritual upbringing of the children, the effect of the parties’ conflict on the emotional health of the kids, and the anxiety the children experienced when they were required to attend the father’s church. Thecourtconcluded that these observations and recommendations from the children’s therapist provided a sufficient evidentiary basis to grant to the mother sole decision-making authority with respect to the children’s religious upbringing.

The children’s therapist stated that one child “has become paranoid that ‘Jehovah’ is watching everything that he does and that he will be punished when his father takes him back to ‘Jehovah’s House.'” The children complained to the therapist about all the time they spent at Father’s church. The therapist said the children have increased anxiety, a distrust of Father, the feeling they are being forced to believe something they do not, and that he is not considerate of their own thoughts and beliefs.

Thecourtgranted Mother soledecision-making authority regarding the children’s religious upbringing. If you are concerned about a parenting decision that has affected the well-being of your child,our officecan advise you of your options.

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (931) 919-4376
InTennesseedivorceproperty division is accomplished through theCourtmaking an “Equitable Distribution” of the married couples’ property, however, theCourtmust first identify, categorize, and value it, before it can be divided.Tennessee lawtherefore mandates full and fair disclosure of all marital property in adivorce. Should one spouse not make the appropriate disclosures, they can be brought back intoCourtto face allegations of perjury and contempt ofcourt.

▪ Marital Property
TheCourtwill categorize property as either separate or marital, and value that asset if marital in nature. Marital property includes all real and personal property, both tangible and intangible acquired by either spouse during the marriage up to the date ofdivorce. TheCourtis able to divide marital property, but lacks the ability to divide separate property.

▪ Separate Property
Separate property is owned by one spouse prior to the marriage. Although some items of property can be acquired during the marriage and still be one spouse’s separate property. These include: inheritance; gifts; pain and suffering awards; awards for future medical expenses and future lost wages; victim of crime compensation awards; disability insurance payments that replace future lost wages; social security benefits; and income from and appreciation in the value of separate property that accrues during the marriage.

▪ Doctrine of Transmutation
Under the doctrine of transmutation, separate property can become marital property subject to division, where each spouse made a substantial contribution to the “preservation and appreciation” of one spouse’s separate property, then the resulting income and/or increased value is marital property and subject to division.

▪ Commingling
When property becomes commingled, separate property can become marital property if it becomes so intertwined that it is impossible to separate. If the separate portion cannot be traced then the entire asset is presumed to be marital property For example, money from a marital account is occasionally used in one spouse’s separate investment account without a record of the transactions. If the funds become so commingled that they are impossible to separate, the entire account will become marital property

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.

Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (931) 919-4376
TheTennessee Court of Appealsrecently reminded us of the importance of encouraging a good relationship between your children and their other parent. In this case, Father lived in Tennessee with the children and was the primary residential parent. Mother lived in Texas. She received 85 days of parenting time.

In 2015, Mother filed an emergency motion to modify the parenting plan to obtain primary custody. Mother attached copies of text messages sent between Father and the oldest child during Mother’s parenting time. Among other things, Father told the children Mother “Doesn’t mind to cause pain for others”, is “Mentally ill”, “Nobody likes her” and that the children “Have a right to be ugly to her".

Thetrial courtappointed a forensic psychologist to examine the parties and the children. The psychologist ultimately concluded that the children werealienatedfrom Mother, and that thealienationwas supported by the actions and statements of Father. The psychologist explained:“The parent who is supporting thealienation, whether this is their intent or not, is effectively supporting the child in cruel, unempathetic behavior towards another human being; they are supporting the child in attitudes and behaviors towards interpersonal conflict that emphasize rejection, separation, and polarization, rather than resolution.”

• Thetrial courtfound this to be a “Case Of Severe Parental Alienation” in which Father had actively supported the children’s alienation from Mother without reasonable cause.

• Thetrial courtruled it was in the children’s best interest that custody be changed, and thetrial courtdesignated Mother as the primary residential parent with sole decision-making authority.

• Thetrial courtalso ordered Father to pay for Mother and children to attend a program designed to provide a therapeutic remedy for parental alienation.

• Father was also prohibited from having any contact with the children for at least 90 days so they could complete the therapeutic program.

The Father appealed and theTennessee Court of Appealsagreed with the original judgment.

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (931) 919-4376
No one expects any parent to have a spotless home. However, a court in Davidson County modified child custody to make the father the new primary residential parent and to put restrictions on the mother’s visitation partly because of the condition of her home. The court ruled that it was an unfit environment to raise a child.

As with all child custody modification cases, the details are important. In this instance, the mother produced several witnesses who admitted that the home was messy, but that it did not interfere with the well being of the child. The court was inclined to agree with the Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) volunteer who visited the home and reported she did not believe that mother's house was an appropriate environment to raise a child. She explained that the home had three bedrooms but only the living room was actually used. The other rooms were "stuffed" with mother's belongings, and trash was scattered throughout the home. Additionally, at least one bedroom and the basement were completely inaccessible. According to the CASA volunteer, the living room contained one bed in which both mother and the child slept, and occasionally did school work. She testified that she recommended homemaker services to mother and offered to help mother get her home in order, but mother refused assistance. These problems were made worse by the fact that the mother home-schooled the child, and thus the majority of their time was spent in the living room of the home which contained one bed for shared use.

The court ruled that the mother would not have overnight visitation until the home was made fit for the child.

If You Have Questions Please Feel Free To Contact Our Office.
Ryan K McFarland • attorneymcfarland@gmail.com1 (931) 919-4376
1870, Fifteenth Amendment
TheFifteenth Amendment(Amendment XV) to the United States Constitutionprohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to votebased on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude." It was ratified on February 3, 1870, as the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments.
1913, Sixteenth Amendment
TheSixteenth Amendment(Amendment XVI) to the United States Constitutionallows Congress to levy an income taxwithout apportioning it among the statesor basing it on the Census. It was adopted today in legal history.
1998, Karla Faye Tucker executed
Karla Faye Tucker(November 18, 1959 – February 3, 1998) was the first woman to be executedin the United States since 1984, and the first in Texas since 1863. She was convicted of murder in Texas in 1984 and put to death fourteen years later. Because of her gender and widely publicized conversion to Christianity, she inspired an unusually large national and international movement advocating the commutationof her sentence to life imprisonment, a movement that included a few foreign government officials.
She was executed by lethal injection on February 3, 1998. Reportedly, as the lethal chemicals were being administered "she praised Jesus Christ, licked her lips, looked at the ceiling, and hummed". Eight minutes after receiving the injection, she was pronounced dead at 6:45 p.m. C.S.T.

2016, Sorry for no Legal History Yesterday
Blogging was temporarily suspended yesterday while this sweet little thing had emergency surgery. All is well; she is resting comfortably and order is now restored to our blog universe.

1960, Woolworth Sit-ins
Four African American college students sat down at a lunch counter at Woolworth’s in Greensboro, North Carolina, and politely asked for service. Their request was refused. When asked to leave, they remained in their seats. Their passive resistance and peaceful sit-down demand helped ignite a youth-led movement to challenge racial inequality throughout the South. Hundreds of students, civil rights organizations, churches, and members of the community joined in a six-month-long protest. Their commitment ultimately led to the desegregation of the F. W. Woolworth lunch counter on July 25, 1960.
2004, Wardrobe Malfunction
During the halftime show of Superbowl XXXVIII, Janet Jackson suffered her now infamous "wardrobe malfunction." Along with the rest of the halftime show, it led to an immediate crackdown and widespread debate on perceived indecency in broadcasting.The Federal Communications Commission(FCC) fined CBS a record $550,000. That fine was appealed and ultimately voided. The "malfunction"was broadcast to millions of viewers. A co-founder of YouTube has stated that this was the particular incident that led to the idea and subsequent creation of YouTube. The incident also coined the phrase "wardrobe malfunction," which was later added to theMerriam-Webster'sCollegiate Dictionary.

1865- Congress Passed Thirteenth Amendment
After being passed by the Senate the previous year, the House passed the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution which abolished slavery and involuntary servitude. It was then given to the states for ratification. It took until December of that year to get the necessary 3/4 approval from the states.

1945 - Eddie Slovik Executed
  • Eddie Slovik was a United States Army soldier during WWII. He told his Captain that he was afraid to serve in a front line rifle unit and asked to be moved to a rear unit. When his Captain refused, Slovik ran away. Later, he returned and handed this note to a cook:

I, Pvt. Eddie D. Slovik, 36896415, confess to the desertion of the United States Army. At the time of my desertion we were in Albuff [Elbeuf] in France. I came to Albuff as a replacement. They were shelling the town and we were told to dig in for the night. The following morning they were shelling us again. I was so scared, nerves and trembling, that at the time the other replacements moved out, I couldn’t move. I stayed there in my fox hole till it was quiet and I was able to move. I then walked into town. Not seeing any of our troops, so I stayed over night at a French hospital. The next morning I turned myself over to the Canadian Provost Corp. After being with them six weeks I was turned over to American M.P. They turned me loose. I told my commanding officer my story. I said that if I had to go out there again I'd run away. He said there was nothing he could do for me so I ran away again AND I'LL RUN AWAY AGAIN IF I HAVE TO GO OUT THERE.

— Signed Pvt. Eddie D. Slovik A.S.N. 36896415

Slovik was urged to return to his unit but he refused. He was tried in France under the Articles of War, the precursor to the Uniform Code of Military Justice which took effect in 1951. For his millitary crime of desertion, Slovik was executed by firing squad. Slovik was the last American Soldier executed for desertion since the Civil War.

1970- Grateful Dead Arrested
During Carnival Season, members of the group, its crew and several friends were arrested on drug charges at a French Quarter Hotel in New Orleans. The band's managernegotiated a bail of $37,500 — the band’s profit for the previous night's concert— for the entire crew, who spent eight hours in jail. However, the Dead didn’t leave town upon their release. They not only played a second night but added a third show, which raised money for both their legal defense and others bands who found themselves in a similar situation. Night months later, the band released "Truckin'" which memorialized the incident forever in the lyrics of "Busted, down on Bourbon Street / Set up, like a bowlin’ pin / Knocked down, it gets to wearin’ thin / They just won’t let you be, no.” In 1977, the Library of Congress declared "Truckin'" to be a national treasure.

While Congress was meeting in Philadelphia, Representative Matthew Lyon of Vermont spit tobacco juice into the eye of Representative Roger Griswold of Connecticut on the House floor. Griswold later retaliated by hitting Lyon with a cane. Lyon then began attacking Griswold with a pair of fireplace tongs. The House attempted to censure both members but the resolutions failed. The underlying conflict was a disagreement over President John Adams' military strategy. This is regarded as the first of many Congressional brawls. It quickly became satirized in the press and brought national attention to the Partisan divide in Congress.
Photo from Library of Congress: Prints and Photographs Division

After capturing Washington D.C. in 1814, the British burned the Capitol, destroying the Library of Congress and its 3,000 volume collection. Thomas Jefferson offered to sell his personal library in order to rebuild the Congressional collection. On this day in history,President James Madison approved an act of Congress appropriating $23,950 to purchase Thomas Jefferson's library of 6,487 volumes. An avid reader and book collector, Jefferson's library not only included over twice the number of volumes as had been destroyed, it expanded the scope of the library beyond its previous topics—law, economics, and history—to include a wide variety of subjects in several languages. Anticipating the objection that his collection might be too comprehensive, he argued, "I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a Member of Congress may not have occasion to refer."

Today, Jefferson's personal collection is stored in the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room of the Library of Congress.