Dependent and Neglect Proceedings

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Rule 301: Initiation of Cases.

A dependent and neglect case is commenced by the filing of a petition. When the petitioner is not the Department of Children’s Services, the court shall promptly refer the case to the Department for investigation.

Advisory Commission Comments.

This rule is intended to define the commencement of a dependent and neglect case in juvenile court. The former practice of informally adjusting dependent and neglect cases has been eliminated.

A dependent and neglect case may be initiated by the Department of Children’s Services, a private party, or the court.  The clerk shall not prevent any person from filing a petition in accordance with the law. 

When an intake court officer receives information alleging facts that, if true, indicate that a child is dependent and neglected and is subject to the jurisdiction of that court, the officer shall assist in the filing of a petition and refer the allegations for investigation by the Department of Children’s Services. A private party shall be permitted to file a petition with the court clerk regardless of whether the officer assisted with the preparation of the petition. If a private party chooses not to file a petition, the officer may still make a referral to the Department.

There are situations in which a court must exercise its authority on an emergency basis to protect a child already under the jurisdiction of the court on a previously filed petition other than a dependent and neglect petition. The exercise of that authority is typically done in a bench order. In such circumstances, a dependent and neglect petition must be filed within 2 judicial days, pursuant to T.C.A. § 37-1-128.

Unless there are new dependent and neglect allegations, any subsequent petition alleging material change of circumstances, filed after the disposition of the original case, shall be considered a continuation of that original case.

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