SETLAW's holiday party is scheduled for this Tuesday, December 18, 2018 at 5:30PM at the Walden Club. This is a great annual event, that is sure to be filled with good conversation, good food and good drinks. Please come celebrate the holiday season with SETLAW and meet the new board.
Many people living in Tennessee are not familiar with the TN child abuse registry. When The Department of Children's Services "DCS" receives abuse reports, they have to either indicate or fail to indicate the report in order to close the case. An indication only requires that DCS finds probable cause that the abuse or neglect occurred, which is a very low standard of proof.
When DCS indicates an adult for any form of child abuse or neglect, that person's name gets put on the TN child abuse registry. Many employers search the registry as part of normal background checks in the hiring process.
There is a specific process for appealing an indication, so if you are indicated, you should hire an attorney to help you appeal immediately. It is very difficult to overturn an indication, but it can be done. Make DCS prove their case in front of the administrative law judge, then to your local chancery court.
I recently represented a principal in North Tennessee who had many years of experience in the field of education. The principal was one of the kindest and good hearted people I have ever met. He was very gifted with computers and had located me through some kind of intensive online search.
When he first called me, I explained that due to the fact that I lived so far away, my charges would be higher. I then researched some of the local media coverage, and what I saw there caused me further concern. I am a Board Certified Child Welfare Attorney and I have fought for over 15 years to help children be safe.
Together, we worked hard to prepare the case--there was an insane amount of evidence in the record: video footage, transcripts, DCS records, to name a few. I also had to really learn the law, including administrative caselaw.
I got to court a day early to meet the clerks and get the lay of the land. I tried out the VCR to make sure it would work--a very important part of my argument involved the video evidence from the school.
I won the case, and DCS dismissed the indication. It was one of the greatest things I have ever accomplished, almost totally on my own. The case also consumed my life for many months.
When I agree to take a case and accept a client, it give me tremendous responsibility and I take that very seriously. My clients rely on and trust my judgment. I have over 20 years experience in family law and almost 15 in child welfare law specifically. I know a lot about how the court system works and completely understand that when it comes to law there is a lot of inherent uncertainty and that the legal process takes a long time! Clients get so frustrated with that process, but honestly, unless it is an emergency situation (physical abuse, etc), most cases can benefit with some breathing room. It is best to have more time to think before making big decisions.
When I do a consultation, I want to feel like I can trust my client's judgment also. The attorney/client relationship is a 2-way street and a very significant relationship.
SETLAW has announced its inaugural breakfast on March 15, 2018 at 7:30AM at the Camphouse in Chattanooga, TN. The theme of the CLE breakfast is Leading Women: Female Lead Firms and Female Solo Attorneys. SETLAW normally has lunch & learns, but this month, has elected to provide CLE through a breakfast.
The panel for the event is Autumn Witt Boyd and Amanda Jelks, both attorneys with solo practices in town. Muffins and coffee will be provided for this learning event.
TLAW is having it's 3rd Annual Empowerment Conference: Right Time, Right Now on April 19 and April 20, 2018 at the Waller Law Firm in Nashville, TN. The main conference is on Friday the 20th from 8:15 AM check in to around 3:45 in the afternoon and will provide around 5.5 hours CLE credit.
There will be great speakers and panels this year. On Thursday the 19th, the conference will have an opening presentation and panel, followed by the opening reception. I will put a sign-up link in my blog very soon. I attended the first conference 2 years ago and loved it so much that I am currently the East TN Director of TLAW and have been on the empowerment conference committee for the past two years. I have really enjoyed meeting the women of TLAW.
Thanks to the generosity of Emily O'Donnell, the Women's Fund Executive Director, I was able to attend the 5th Annual Voices event yesterday at Stratton Hall. There were around 500 people in attendance and I was sitting in the very back.
I learned that the Women's Fund has a very ambitious agenda--they want to take Tennessee from number 49 to number 1 in all issues that affect women, including employment and earnings, health and wellbeing, safety and violence and poverty and opportunity.
The keynote speaker was Shelley Zalis, who creating a company called Online Testing Exchange and later sold it. When she owned the company, she was the first female chief executive ranked in the research industry's top 25. She was a powerful speaker regarding the ability we have to really change things for the better here in Tennessee. As she said yesterday, when you are ranked 49th in the country, there is nowhere to go but up!
The Nightingale Chair, KatieMorgan, presented Girl's Inc as this years Nightingale grant recipient.
The best thing about the event for a working woman like me was that it was succinct but powerful. The whole program lasted maybe 40 minutes and I was able to eat a good lunch, be inspired, and get back to work!
I'm glad the Women's Fund is out there fighting for women and want to get more involved.
As a former DCS attorney, I have a pretty strong opinion about child abuse. A lot of people do not know that neglect is considered to be child abuse in TN; if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense that neglect is abuse, for those people who should know better. I am not talking having a sloppy house--for neglect it needs to be much more serious that that--failure to thrive situations, extremely filthy house, no food in house, no heat in winter, not taking the child to school--education neflect--lots of stuff.
There need to be more resources in town to help people who need it. Drug abuse, both illegal and prescription is a HUGE problem in Chattanooga. And the criminal justice system is still not fully set up to deal with drug abuse and helping people.
I represent some parents, and lots of grandparents. It is very sad, that due to drug abuse, so many grandparents are put in the position of having to step forward and taking temporary custody of children. The parents should be thankful, but they are almost always angry and resentful.
I always say, I am cool with you being a drug addict, if that is how you choose to live; but if you choose to be an addict, I do not believe you should have custody of your children. Sorry. It is one or the other. Children have to be in a safe and stable environment.
Save the date for the TLAW (Tennessee Lawyer's Association for Women) Empowerment Conference in Nashville, on March 30 and 31, 2017. The conference itself is on March 31 from around 8:30 until 4:30 or so and there is a reception March 30 in the afternoon. Exact dates and times to follow.
I went to this event last year with a couple of other female attorneys and it was a good event. CLE are provided also. and they always try to get dual credits.
It is important for all humans to take time to retreat. To spend time in some solitude and get quiet with themselves. Maybe for you retreat is fishing or yoga or music, sewing, whatever, it doesn't matter. Take some time to get quiet and reflect on your life. Do the things you really like to do, instead of things you have to do. Rest, recharge, all kinds of wonderful things.
In order to provide care for others, we have to take care of ourselves. The New Year is a good time to do it. I hope to get some good resolutions out of my retreat this year.
For anyone dealing with a bad family situation, like some kind of lawsuit, you have to get away if you can a little to get some perspective. As I tell clients, the wheels of justice run VERY slowly. It is better to resolve cases outside of court in almost every family law situation, unless there is some kind of bad abuse going on or something like that.
So for those of you who are involved in litigation, try to take care of yourself, and not get too consumed with the case. Hard to do, but important. Take advantage of the mediation process. You can mediate formally or informally, ask your attorney about all of the options.
Happy and healthy New Year to all blog readers,
Join SETLAW at the EPB building on July 24. The following candidates from the local contested elections will have an opportunity to answer questions submitted by our members: Judge Philyaw, Yolanda Mitchell, Gwen Tidwell, Vince Dean, Steve Smith, Ardena Garth, Judge Sell, and Rex Sparks. Lunch will be served at 11:45 am and the program will begin promptly at 12. RSVP at: http://setlawjulylunch.eventbrite.com.
Please sign up and come decide who you think is most qualified for all of Chattanooga's hotly contested elected positions.