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Knoxville Family Law Blog

Overcoming addiction to win back child custody

You love your child and want to provide a good, stable home for them. As much as you want to help your child grow and succeed, addiction is a monster you just can't seem to escape. A judge decided you were "unfit" and denied guardianship or custody rights to protect your child, but this doesn't mean you can't earn them back.

Addiction, be it drugs, alcohol or gambling, can risk a child's well-being. This disease can pull parents away from spending quality time with children and may affect their ability to make good parenting decisions. It's possible that a grandparent or other family member could care for the child until you are healthy enough to parent again.

Divorce and dealing with it

Tennessee parents, like parents everywhere, experience plenty of guilt during a divorce; it comes hand-in-hand with second-guessing yourself. “Am I making the right decision?” “Will I regret this?” “How is this going to affect my kids?” The guilt can be crippling. The team at the Bodie Law Office understands that divorce is never an easy decision to make, and when children are involved, the decision is even tougher. We have guided many clients through this difficult journey.

In the U.S., nearly half of all marriages end in divorce within 20 years, with 20 percent of them occurring in the first five years, according to the American Psychological Association. The divorce process can seem like an emotional roller-coaster for the entire family. Yet often, children are more affected by the conflict between parents who decide to stay together “for the sake of the children” than they are by a divorce.

Why is gray divorce so bad?

Regardless of your age, if you are one of the married people in Tennessee, you know that marriage is rarely easy. Many people find ways to make their marriages work and even be fulfilling and positive parts of their lives. Others, however, end up making the choice to get divorced. The emotional and financial losses associated with the end of a marriage can be felt by any divorcing spouse but when you are at an age where retirement is nigh, you might evaluate the financial aspect of your divorce differently than if you were 20 years younger.

As explained by CNBC, a gray divorce is the term often used today to describe the end of a marriage in which the spouses are 50 years of age or older. At 50, 55 or 60, a person may have limited years left to work in which they may continue earning money toward their ultimate retirement. This poses special challenges for spouses who must split retirement assets with their partners during a divorce. Instead of multiple decades left to reclaim losses, some people have to rethink their retirement plans altogether.

Can a birth mother revoke consent to adoption?

You may have seen a TV program or movie with a heartbreaking scene of a child being wrenched from the bosom of an adoptive family. The reason? The birth mother, father or both changed their mind. That is Hollywood fiction. In Tennessee, the reality is much different. If you are considering adopting a child, you should know that adoption laws in most cases prevent scenes of this kind from happening through the process of terminating parental rights.

According to FindLaw, parental rights are paramount in any family; to allow you to adopt a child, the courts require biological parents to terminate their parental rights and responsibilities. This is a legal action, and it is required whether the biological parents are working independently or with an adoption agency. What the action means is that the birth parents are giving up all of their rights in regard to the child. This is a permanent decision in almost all cases.

The divorce season

While many people in Tennessee spend the holiday season seemingly in the throes of constant joy and love with their family and friends, others struggle through the pain of marriages that may be falling apart. For some, the holidays may provide one last opportunity for a couple to try and correct the problems in their marriage and get a fresh start. Still others make the decision to keep their family together during the holidays for the sake of their children and maybe even extended family members knowing that they will pursue their divorce options after New Year's.

According to CNBC, a study conducted by the University of Washington shows that once the holidays are over, there is a marked rise in the number of divorce filings around the nation. This increase actually continues all the way through the first quarter of the year. The desire to avoid the onslaught of questions and turmoil during holiday celebrations by announcing a divorce in December may well contribute to this reality.

Adopting older children in Tennessee

Welcoming a new member into the family is, needless to say, an exciting time. Yet depending on the age of the adopted child, adjusting to new surroundings, family members and lifestyles can bring about much confusion. Most parents are aware of this fact and welcome it along with the adoption process, acknowledging that a smooth routine simply takes time. However, some Tennessee parents find it harder to help a new child adapt to a new -- and often overwhelming -- environment. 

These complications can be especially prominent for older children who have previously been exposed to other living situations. The Spruce magazine aligns with these concerns, encouraging new adoptive parents to hold a family meeting when welcoming a new child into the home. In doing so, parents can lay down basic rules of the household and explain how standard routines typically work. Most importantly, meetings can serve as a platform for parents and new children to get to know one another better. Privacy, according to The Spruce, is essential for older adopted children, as well. Giving them the space they need can help build a foundation of trust. 

Adopting a foster child

If you have ever known someone who has acted as a foster parent for a child in Tennessee, you know the truly special gift that they give to the child. At the same time, foster parents often indicate that they receive much from their foster children as well. Many people actually end up adopting from within the foster care system. In some cases, adoptive families may have actually fostered the child before legally adopting the child.

As explained by Adopt US Kids, there is no requirement necessarily to foster a child before adopting them but there may be some benefits to doing so. One of these benefits is that the foster period allows both the child, the parents and any other family members to begin their bonding process sooner rather than later. Because there is no biological tie and often a foster child is not an infant, this can be very important.

Mom concerned over son's apparent indoctrination

Child custody is already a very sensitive issue that divorcing parents in Knoxville have to deal with. When similarly sensitive matters like the religious upbringing of children is thrown into the mix (particularly when parents have conflicting views on faith), relations between them can become hostile. State law requires that parents work together to decide upon important matters such as religious, athletic and scholastic pursuits, yet successfully making such decisions together may be difficult. As religious beliefs can have a profound effect on one's emotional and mental well-being, many may view one parent trying to aggressively indoctrinate a child as being potentially harmful. 

Such is the claim being made by a mother in New York in her petition to modify her custody arrangement. Her current agreement calls for her son to spend every other weekend with his father (and to have dinner with him one night every week). She claims, however, that in their time together, the boy's father has attempted to push his extremist Islamic views on her son. As proof, she cites statements that her son has made to her which echo those her ex-husband once made, criticizing her for her lifestyle choices and implying a strong anti-American sentiment. She goes on to say that her ex-husband's influence may be harmful to the boy as his views have led to altercations with classmates in school. 

The main benefits of a divorce mediation

Tennessee residents seeking a productive and amicable way to divorce may find mediation to be the best solution. As the Huffington Post explains, mediation is a process separate from the judicial system, where a single, impartial third party attempts to resolve the matter between two or more contesting parties. Unlike a judge, a mediator cannot impose a solution. It’s up to the parties to mutually agree on how to end their dispute. However, a mediator may help guide the parties toward a productive solution.

According to the Tennessee State Courts website, there are several benefits to taking a divorce case before a mediation process. By going through mediation, the disputing parties are encouraged to reach problem resolution through cooperation and better communication. If successful, the result is a more amicable resolution for all involved. Mediation also allows the parties to retain greater control over the resolution. By contrast, a jury or a judge is free to impose a solution without one or both of the parties having a say, and a solution may disproportionately benefit one side over the other. Mediation, however, allows for both sides to benefit.

Barriers to child custody during divorce

In the past, Tennessee courts operated under the widely held presumption that sole or majority custody by one parent suited a child's best interests after a divorce of the child's parents. Shifting national and state attitudes towards custody currently challenge this legal preference, but there are still criteria which, when satisfied by one of the parents, preclude that parent's sole, partial or joint custody of the child in question.

The Huffington Post provides a valuable look into the value of collaboration during divorce cases. The article mentions the following benefits:

  • Financial outcomes are generally more balanced, potentially increasing each parent's ability to support a child
  • Parental agreement remains a major factor in determining joint custody and collaboration
  • Parents alleviate children's trauma by focusing on shared parenting plans rather than obtaining full custody


Law Office of Meghan A. Bodie
109 S. Northshore Drive
Suite 402
Knoxville, TN 37919

Phone: 865-643-8626
Fax: 865-337-7363
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