Things were relatively quiet on the family-law front this past legislative session. Notably missing, however, was any effort to update the various family-law statutes to account for the constitutionally-protected rights of same-sex parents. Until that happens, Tennessee children and their same-sex parents will continue to navigate in an atmosphere of legal uncertainty.
There were several laws passed this year of which family-law practitioners should be aware. Below is a summary of the ones I think are most important.
Adoption. Public Chapter 919 makes several technical and procedural changes to Tennessee’s adoption laws. For example, it changes the definition of abandonment for terminating parental rights such that if there are not four consecutive months of non-incarceration preceding the filing of the petition or the parent’s incarceration, a four-month period is created by aggregating the shorter periods of non-incarceration.
Parental relocation. The parental relocation statute was amended by Public Chapter 814 to include the prefatory clause: “After custody or co-parenting has been established by the entry of a permanent parenting plan or final order, if a parent who is spending intervals of time . . . .” This merely codifies Tennessee caselaw. See, e.g., Nasgovitz v. Nasgovitz. This amendment became effective April 14, 2016.
Statutory injunction. Public Chapter 734 makes the statutory injunction found in Tennessee Code Annotated § 36-4-106(d) applicable in non-divorce cases involving child custody, including post-divorce and parental relocation matters. The injunction has to be attached to and served with the petition.
Intercounty Transfers. The procedure for an intercounty transfer in child support and child custody cases has been streamlined by Public Chapter 668. Now the requesting party must serve the other party with the pleading seeking the transfer. If the receiving party does not file an objection within 15 days “from the date the notice of the filing was mailed” (???), the case can be transferred without any further action being required.
Juvenile Court appeals. Public Chapter 716 extends the time period for appealing a magistrate’s order to the juvenile court judge from five days to 10 days.
Juvenile Court petitions. Public Chapter 598 amends Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-120 to require that petitions filed in juvenile court contain information similar to that which the UCCJEA requires be included in complaints for divorce.
Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System QDRO’s. Although not part of the 2016 legislative session, Tennessee Code Annotated § 8-36-128 was created in 2013 to require TCRS to start honoring qualified domestic relations orders “at a time designated by the state treasurer.” As of July 1, 2016, that time is now. TCRS benefits are now divisible by QDRO. The rules can be found here. The model QDRO can be found here.
Unless otherwise noted, these bills became effective July 1, 2016.
Information provided by K.O. Herston: Knoxville, Tennessee Divorce and Family Law Attorney.