Tennessee Supreme Court Just Made It Much Easier for Parents to Modify Parenting Plans

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Live at 9 Parenting Plans in Tennessee Interview 

The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled today that a parent who wants to modify a parenting schedule is no longer required to prove that the parents did not anticipate a “significant change in circumstances” at the time of the initial parenting agreement.

The Court clarified that the statutory law enacted in Tennessee in 2004 eliminated this requirement and emphasized that parenting schedules should allow both parents to enjoy the maximum participation possible in the life of the child. Read more here.

What NOT to Wear—to Court!

What NOT to Wear—to Court!

Sloppy DressersI used to tell my clients to wear their “Sunday Best” to Court, and everyone understood immediately the message I was conveying to them. However, that phrase has lost its meaning in the 21st century. Now many churches allow worshipers to wear jeans, shorts, flip flops, etc.

The Courts still do have a dress code which must be followed. When you appear in Court, your audience is the Judge (or, in some cases, the Judge and the Jury). First impressions are crucial, especially when the fate of your future and your family is hanging in the balance.

While I personally don’t care what you wear on a daily basis and don’t hold your choices against you, I do care what you wear to Court, Mediation, Depositions, and other Official Proceedings.

My job is to help you to get the best result possible in your case. Studies have shown over and over that your appearance, as “unfair” as it may seem, greatly influences how others perceive you. If you look your very best, people are much more likely to believe you and are more likely to automatically attribute certain characteristics to you, such as intelligence, success, and credibility.

It is very important that you make a good impression in Court if you want to prevail in your case.

So, to clarify what I mean when I say you need to wear your “Sunday Best” to Court, here is a handy reference guide.

Please Do NOT Wear the Following Items:

• shorts
• jeans
• tank tops
• anything SLEEVELESS (your shoulders cannot be showing)
• anything showing your midriff
• anything low-cut or showing cleavage
• athletic wear, such as jogging suits, sweat pants, etc.
• tight clothing
• pants that are falling down!
• skirts or dresses that are short—they should hit just above the knee
• flip flops (and it’s best to shy away from sandals altogether)
• tennis shoes
• “flashy” jewelry or lots of jewelry
• sunglasses
• heavy makeup
• funky hair coloring (green, bright orange, pink, blue, etc.)
• face/mouth/nose piercings

What You SHOULD WEAR to Court:

For Men:

• if you have a suit and tie, that is always preferable
• dress slacks
• blazer/sport coat (if you have one) and a tie
• a collared shirt, tucked in, with a belt
• make sure you are well-groomed
(If you have long hair, please pull it back)

For Women:

• a dress or skirt with a conservative top
• dress pants or pantsuit
• light makeup
• modest jewelry
• make sure you are well-groomed
• please do not wear anything that reveals your bra straps

Other Important Tips for Your Trip to Court

The Following Items are NOT Allowed in the Courtroom:

• chewing gum
• food
• drinks
• cell phones
• electronic devices
• recording devices (unless prior Court approval is granted)
• knives, guns, weapons
• hats & coats (please take them OFF BEFORE you step into the Courtroom)

You Will Have to Go Through Security and Have Your Bags Scanned in Order to Enter the Courthouse. They Do NOT Allow the Following Items to be Brought into the Courthouse in Shelby County, Tennessee:

• knives, guns, or weapons of any type
• phone chargers and electronic cords
• eating utensils (such as forks)
• alcohol, illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia

The above items will be confiscated and will not be returned to you.

I Always Recommend Bringing With You:

• some cash and change for the vending machines
• a notepad and pen or pencil
• a cross-word puzzle or something to read, as you might be waiting in the hallway a long time before you are called into the courtroom (although “non-legal” reading materials are technically not allowed in the courtroom)

Don’t Forget to Turn OFF Your Cell Phones, Pagers, etc. BEFORE ENTERING THE COURTROOM!

It’s REALLY embarrassing to have your phone start playing a tune in the middle of Court. Sometimes it really infuriates the Court, and it will draw unwanted attention your way.

One Friday morning I was in a packed Courtroom. As the Court’s Docket was being called, someone’s cell phone began loudly ringing. Surprisingly enough, and to the relief of everyone in the Courtroom, the Judge reached inside his robe, pulled out his phone, and answered it!

Unless you are the Judge, please remember to turn off your phone.

© 2013 Kendra Hazlett Armstrong, Attorney at Law

10 Easy Steps You Can Take to Lower the Cost of Your Divorce

10 Easy Steps You Can Take to Lower the Cost of Your Divorce

  1. Write down all of your questions and the things you want to tell your attorney ahead of time and have them with you when you meet with your attorney, phone your attorney, or email your attorney.  Carry a notepad or journal around with you and jot down your questions when you think of them. If you have an iPhone, take full advantage of the Notes application and/or the Voice Memo application and record your questions and thoughts as soon as they come to mind. Taking this step will ensure that you won’t forget to tell your attorney important information and that you won’t forget to ask your attorney any questions; it will also help you to stick to the topics that you need to address. You and your attorney will get a lot more accomplished in less time, and that means less money out of your pocket.
  2. Make your emails to your attorney well-organized, concise and to the point. Doing so will help your attorney to better understand what you are trying to say or to ask, and it will also help your attorney respond to you more quickly than if you send a rambling email that is one long paragraph and asks 5 million different questions. Many attorneys do charge clients for reading and responding to emails. The easier they are to read and to understand, the less amount of time your attorney will need to spend reading and responding to them, and the lower your bill will be!
  3. If you are emailing your attorney with a question about a document, ATTACH a copy of that document to your email. Your attorney can then quickly look at that document and answer your question. Otherwise, you may be billed not only for reading and responding to the email, but also for pulling the file, locating the document, possibly copying the document, and then putting the file back in the filing cabinet. Doing this one simple step should also get you a more rapid response because your attorney is more likely to deal with your email immediately if he or she sees that it will not be necessary to pull your file and to locate the document.Email Tip: Send a copy of your emails to your attorney’s assistant. Doing so will lessen the chance that your email gets lost in your attorney’s overflowing inbox. You can always also call the office and alert your attorney’s assistant that you have sent an important email and you want to make sure that your attorney sees it.
  4. Hire a psychologist or a counselor. I always recommend that divorce clients and their children participate in counseling or psychotherapy during and after a divorce. It is necessary to help clients and their children deal with and heal from the destruction of that which they have held most dear:  their family. You need to address your emotional issues and struggles with a psychologist or a counselor, who is trained to help you work through those specific issues. You need to let your lawyer focus on your legal issues, which is much easier for your lawyer to do when you are not relying on your lawyer to provide you with psychotherapy (which most of us are not licensed, trained, or qualified to do anyway). When you are interacting with your attorney, you and your attorney need to be primarily focused on the logistics of your case and the legal issues that are involved. In many instances a therapist charges less per hour than an attorney does anyway, and they usually end the therapy sessions in one hour and on time!
  5. When you have a question about your case, talk to the paralegal or legal assistant who works with your attorney first instead of going straight to your attorney. Depending on the fee agreement you have with your lawyer, you may or may not be charged to communicate with your attorney’s support staff, however, it will almost always be less expensive to funnel your questions and problems through the support staff. I have found that oftentimes when a client calls me with a question or a problem it takes 10 to 15 minutes to get all of the facts and to clarify what it is the client really wants and needs to know. It is extremely helpful to me for my legal assistant to obtain and sort through that information on the front end so that I can quickly and easily respond and provide the client with the answers he or she is seeking. Many times it results in me “no charging” the client for the time it takes me to answer his or her questions, as opposed to me billing them for a 20 or 30 minute phone call. Additionally, my staff member can record notes for the client’s file at no charge, further reducing the cost of that phone call for the client.
  6. Limit the frequency of your communications with your attorney. Some clients call and/or email their attorneys several times a day, nearly every day. This habit is not a problem if you are looking for a sure-fire way to increase your attorney fees. If you find you always have questions for your attorney popping into your mind, then please jot them down on a notepad or otherwise record them and make that call to your attorney only once per day.
  7. Conduct as much business as you can with your attorney over the phone or via email as opposed to meeting with your attorney in person. For some reason, face-to-face meetings almost always last longer and are more costly to the client than phone calls or emails addressing the same issues. It’s easier to stay on track and to end your conversations in a punctual manner when you are on the phone than it is when you are meeting in person.
  8. Take your attorney’s advice. I have had clients tell me, “Next time I will listen to you,” far too often. Simply following your attorney’s recommendations can save you many dollars and much heartache. If you don’t trust your attorney’s advice, please hire a different attorney!
  9. Narrow down your issues. If at all possible, communicate with your spouse and determine what issues the two of you can agree on, write those things down, and tell your attorney. Your attorney can then spend billable time dealing with your outstanding, unresolved issues. The fewer the disputed issues, the lower your bill.
  10. Be reasonable. Most divorces are ultimately settled out of Court. The goal in settling a lawsuit is for both parties to walk away with an agreement they can live with, not for both parties to get everything they want (that’s impossible). The alternative to being reasonable and reaching a tolerable agreement is to let a neutral third party, who doesn’t know you from Adam, intervene in your life and ORDER you and your spouse to do as he or she sees fit. Not only will you be taking a gamble which could result in an intolerable and unacceptable outcome for you, your attorney fees and expenses will increase exponentially.

One final note about the cost of your divorce, please keep in mind that every time your attorney goes to Court, there are usually, at the very least, several billable hours involved. Your attorney will have to prepare for the proceeding, travel to and from the proceeding, attend the proceeding, and conduct follow-up work. Oftentimes Court appearances are in the client’s best interest and/or they are unavoidable, and therefore it is necessary to incur those fees. There is not much that you can do about that fact. However, despite the fact that sometimes you cannot control the amount of your attorney fees, there are some steps that you can take to reduce your attorney fees, as I’ve outlined above. Try them. You will thank me later!