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Opinion on Overnight Visitors with Unmarried Parents


     Many Tennessee courts and attorneys by reflex insert parenting plan provisions prohibiting residential parents from allowing overnight visitation by “paramours” or “members of the opposite sex to whom they are not married”.

    The Court of Appeals for the western section of Tennessee recently struck down a local rule in Gibson County requiring similar language in all permanent parenting plans. Barker v. Chandler (September 18, 2009) was widely publicized because it struck application of the mandatory language to a mother and her same sex partner who are not allowed by Tennessee law to marry.

     The decision has wider implications for all parents who may be cohabitating or involved in other relationships without the benefit of marriage. The court noted that Tennessee statutes and court opinions require “that trial judges make decisions regarding residential parenting of children ‘upon the basis of the best interest of the child’”

     Trial courts in Tennessee following the western section’s opinion will almost certainly be allowed to consider a parent’s relationships and living arrangements, but those factors will have to be balanced with all others presented to the court when making parenting decisions in the best interests of the child.

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Defining Terms used in Probate and Wills


A will is a document that directs the distribution of a person’s property after he or she dies. It is “admitted to probate” after death in order for the probate court to oversee the distribution in an orderly fashion that can be relied upon by others to establish property rights.

A person who dies with a valid written will (and not having revoked it) is said to have died “testate.” A person who dies without leaving behind a validly executed will is said to have died “intestate,” in which case statutory law will determine the distribution of the deceased’s property among the heirs or next of kin.

The will may be carried out by an executor, who is a person appointed in the will document to make sure the wishes or directions set forth in the will are carried out. An executor (or executrix) is a personal representative named in a will. The executor is the person chosen by the deceased to assure his or her property is distributed according to the will. An administrator (or administratrix) is a personal representative appointed by the court for a decedent who dies without a will, who fails to name an executor, who names someone who is without capacity to serve, or who writes a will that the court refuses to admit to probate.

It is not always necessary to probate a will if there is little property, all beneficiaries are known (and in agreement) and there is no real estate owned by the decedent.

This is best determined in consultation with an attorney. For more information about probate and wills call Dobbins and Venick Law Firm.

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