Navigating A Divorce

Navigating a Divorce

Ending a marriage is a complicated, trying, and complex experience. One must address everything that has been part of their marriage.  This can include money, children, property division, stress, as well as a full gamut of emotional chaos. 

One of the most important assets you can have during a divorce is your lawyer. As your ally, it is essential to tell your lawyer the entire story of your marriage, the good, the bad, and the ugly, so she can be fully prepared to navigate you through the divorce process.

In Tennessee, there are two primary routes for obtaining a divorce.

  • Irreconcilable Differences Divorce – This is a “no-fault” divorce. The parties have a property settlement agreement and agree to a parenting plan. 
  • Contested Divorce –This type of divorce is filed based on some type of inappropriate marital conduct.  Which includes, but is not limited to adultery, desertion, impotency, bigamy, criminal conviction of a felony, attempt upon the life of the spouse, habitual drunkenness or abuse of narcotic drugs, or other reasons recognized by Tennessee law.

The Court’s goal is to divide the marital assets, assign alimony, and determine custody and support of the minor children equitably.

This does not mean everything is split right down the middle. That is why it is crucial to have an experienced lawyer to ensure your interests are protected and represented.

The Court will consider several factors in this equitable division of assets, and in determining the need for a party to receive spousal support, more commonly known as alimony. Some of those factors include:

  • Duration of the marriage
  • Age, health, earning capacity, and financial needs of each party
  • Contribution by one party to the education or earning power of another
  • Ability of the parties to earn
  • The separate property of each spouse

Social media, text messages, and emails may be used against you in a contested divorce.

In today’s internet society, regardless of your privacy and security settings of social media accounts, your photos, posts, and sometimes your whereabouts are accessible. It will be hard to convince the Court of faithfulness or soberness when posts say otherwise. 

Divorces take time.

Once the necessary documents for the divorce have been filed with the Court, and there are no minor children involved, there is a mandatory 60-day waiting period for a divorce to be final, even if the parties have filed an agreement with the Court at the outset. If there are minor children, the period extends to 90 days. Keep in mind, these time periods for finalization are the bare minimum allowed by law.  If the parties have not reached an agreement on every issue that must be addressed and divided, then the divorce will require additional time outside this window to be finalized.  Divorces involving minor children also require that the parties attempt the mediation process prior to the court hearing a divorce trial.

McDonald, Levy & Taylor, PLLC

The lawyers at McDonald, Levy & Taylor are experienced in all aspects of the divorce process. In your initial consultation, we will discuss a plan with you that is specifically tailored to your needs.  We will then draft and file the necessary documents with the Court, and help you be prepared every step of the way. Our goal is to be the strong arm in your corner while showing compassion and respect in this challenging chapter in your life. We hope you never need us, but if you do, we are here for you.

Click here for more details on the divorce process.

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Non-Compete Agreements

Keeping it Fair on Both Sides

Non-Compete Agreements: Keeping it Fair on Both Sides

by Brandon M. Allen, JD
McDonald, Levy & Taylor

Non-compete agreements are a valuable tool utilized to protect businesses when used appropriately.

It is likely that most employees are familiar with, or have been required to sign, a non-compete agreement presented by an employer. It is also likely that many employers have considered the usage of these agreements when hiring and training new employees. Non-compete contracts typically go in one direction, meaning that the employer presents the agreement not to compete to the employee, and the employee is required to sign the agreement in order to begin her work. This may seem unfair, as the employer is almost always in the superior position of offering a job to the employee. In fact, the employee may feel obligated to sign unless she is prepared to return to the job postings and look for another job. 

While these contracts may sound unfair to employees, they serve a valid purpose for employers when used properly and legally.

 An agreement not to compete may show up as a separate legal document, or it could be conveniently tucked away in another employment contract as a simple restrictive covenant preventing the employee from taking some action. Employees also have rights under an agreement not to compete, along with limitations on what they should be asked to give up or actions they can be prohibited from taking.

In Tennessee, agreements not to compete are governed by law. 

These contracts are highly litigated, and Tennessee Courts tend to disfavor the agreements because they have an inherent likelihood of restraining trade. Conversely, employers choose to continue their usage of these contracts for many reasons. Often, employers invest highly into a new employee by providing training and knowledge required to do the job. They also share trade secrets that could jeopardize their businesses if an employee learned the trade and then moved to a competitor or opened up a new business to compete. This is a risk for an employer who is looking for new talent but is also burdened with the obligation to protect the business. 

The key to a valid non-compete agreement is drafting reasonable covenants. 

An employer who relies on an unfair agreement is likely to be overturned in court, resulting in a contract that is not enforceable and the accrual of legal fees to cover litigation. The definition of reasonable in a non-compete agreement also comes with its own set of complexities. Employers may ask that employees refrain from working within a specific proximity of the employer’s location after leaving or waiting a specific length of time before they can do so. Determining whether these covenants are enforceable and reasonable depends on whether the employer has a protectable business interest served by the agreement.

For example, if a medical device company hires and invests in a sales representative who is introduced to trade secrets, it may be enforceable to prohibit the representative from selling an identical product for a competitor who is located in the same area for six months after ending employment. Conversely, prohibiting a truck driver from working at any business as a driver within 250 miles for six months after ending employment is likely too restrictive. 

If the contract is arbitrary and rooted primarily in the intent to affect an employee’s ability to find a new job, it is likely to fail in enforceability. 

If the intent is to protect and guard trade secrets and may provide a previous employee an unfair advantage in the industry, then Tennessee Courts are likely to uphold the covenants.

The law on non-compete agreements is evolving. Whether you are an employer seeking to draft an agreement that protects the business interests of your organization or an employee who has been asked to sign a contract that you feel may impact your rights upon your departure, we are happy to assist. Please feel free to call McDonald, Levy & Taylor, PLLC, and schedule a consult to discuss your legal needs anytime.

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Notarizing in a Pandemic

It’s Easier Than You Think

Notarizing during a Pandemic is now virtual
Signing a document in front of a Notary Public and Witnesses virtually

Documents like trusts, wills, deeds, and other legal filings require signatures to be witnessed by a notary public and witnesses. According to Tennessee Statutes and Rules, the person signing, notary, and witnesses must be in the same room. This mandate could bring commerce to a screeching halt since social distancing is necessary for fighting this pandemic.

Executive Order No. 26 provides required parties can sign, witness, and notarize a document via real-time audio and visual communications such as Skype, FaceTime, Zoom, or like technologies. All parties must be physically located in Tennessee during the communication, and the document must include a provision that the signatures were executed in compliance with Executive OrderNo. 26.

McDonald, Levy, and Taylor’soffices are still open as we adhere to strict social distancing guidelines, but we also have the technology to use the provisions allowed within this new legislation.  The current mandate, Executive Order 66 extends the Governor’s Order through December 29, 2020. As the year ends, now is the time to review and update any document that protects you and your loved ones’ future. Despite this pandemic, McDonald, Levy, and Taylor can safely and securely walk you through these legal processes and continue to provide the same level of service to our community. 

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Lawyer of the Year

We are proud to announce that Farrell A. Levy has been selected as the Lawyer of Year in Knoxville, TN by America’s Best Lawyers in the area of Plaintiff’s Products Liability Litigation.

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Super Lawyer

Congratulations to Farrell A. Levy of our firm for being selected as a Mid-South Super Lawyer in plaintiff’s personal injury.  Mr. Levy has been selected as Super Lawyer for over 10 straight years.mlt3

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A Dream Comes True

lillian-bitner-resizedFarrell A. Levy and Carolyn Levy Gilliam served as dream captains for a Dream Connection child, Lilly.  She wanted to see the singing group, Pentatonix, in Atlanta.  Not only did she get to see the group perform, but she got to meet them and spent about 15 minutes talking with them.  To add icing to the cake, she arrived at the concert in a limo where she was taken through a balloon entrance constructed especially for her.  She and her family have spent the last few days in Atlanta seeing sights and having fun.  Thanks to all that helped make this dream come true and hats off to Pentatonix.

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Farrell A. Levy in Best Attorneys in America© 2017

Congratulations to Farrell A. Levy for being listed in the Best Attorneys in America 2017 in Product Liability Litigation – Plaintiffs & Workers’ Compensation Law – Claimants. 82890 - Farrell A. Levy

 

 

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Attorney Katie Ogle Join Our Firm

IMG_3161We are please to announce that attorney Katheryn “Katie” M. Ogle has joined our firm.  Katie has been practicing law in Knoxville since 2012 and is a graduate of Appalachian School of Law.  She has handled a wide variety of civil and criminal matters.  Her main area of focus has been litigation involving children and families.

Katie has been active in community activities including being a member of the CASA Executive Board and the Foster Care Review Board.  Prior to practicing law, Katie was an alternative school teacher.

We welcome her to our firm.

 

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Dangers of Helicopters

The recent tragic crash of a helicopter in Pigeon Forge draws attention to dangers of piloting a helicopter. We are proud of Chuck Taylor of our firm who was a helicopter pilot in the Tennessee National Guard for many years.  Being a helicopter pilot took time away from his family and law practice, but Mr. Taylor performed a valuable service to our state and country.  Chuck was not only a helicopter pilot in the National Guard, but a certified instructor for helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.  He did all this while trying numerous complex jury trials, primarily in U.S. District Court.  Chuck Taylor

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Farrell A. Levy Selected as a Super Lawyer Again

For the 10th straight year, Farrell A. Levy has been selected as a Super Lawyer for personal injury for the plaintiff by the Mid-South Super Lawyers magazine. Congratulations to Farrell on his selection.

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