About Juvenile & Family Courts

Tennessee is home to 98 juvenile courts with 109 juvenile court judges and 45 Magistrates. Of these 98 courts, 17 are designated "Private Act" juvenile courts while the remaining 81are general sessions courts with juvenile jurisdiction. Each court, with the exception of Bristol and Johnson City, is county-based and administered with at least one juvenile court located in each of the state's 95 counties. While all of Tennessee’s courts with juvenile jurisdiction do their best to follow the procedural guidelines established by the Tennessee Rules of Juvenile Procedure, there is little standardization in juvenile court size, case management procedures, and court administrative practices. This means that the systems and practices in Tennessee’s juvenile courts vary widely and tend to reflect the needs and preferences of the people living in that particular community.

A juvenile is defined as any individual who is under the chronological age of eighteen (18) years and who has not been previously transferred to adult court. Juvenile courts deal not only with delinquency and status offenses, but also with issues concerning dependency and neglect, child abuse, child support, custody issues, establishing parentage, visitation, and the need for medical and/or mental health treatment for children. Tennessee's juvenile courts have jurisdiction within the following areas:

  • Adjudication of children as dependent and neglected, abused,  status/unruly, or delinquent
  • Determination of custody
  • Termination of parental rights
  • Ordering of treatment, evaluation and/or commitment of a developmentally disabled or mentally ill children
  • Commitment of children to the custody of the Department of Children Services
  • Establishment of parentage
  • Ordering and enforcement of child support for children of unwed parents
  • Establishing visitation for non-custodial parents
  • Enforcement of the compulsory school attendance laws
  • Removal of the age restrictions on a minor's application for a marriage license
  • Giving of judicial consent to a minor's employment or enlistment in the armed services if law requires such consent
  • Giving of judicial consent to the medical treatment of a child when his/her parents or guardians are unable to do so
  • Judicial authorization of an abortion without parental consent
  • Adjudication of alleged traffic violations by persons under the age of  eighteen
  • Transfer of serious delinquency cases to criminal court for trial as adults

Pursuant to Tennessee Code Annotated § 37-1-159, the juvenile court is a court of record. It may enforce its orders in any way in which a court of equity may enforce its orders and decrees, including by imprisonment and/or by fine for contempt. For more, refer to the Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges Annual Juvenile Court Statistical Report