Dependent and Neglect Proceedings

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Rule 304: Intervention.

(a)  Intervention as of Right.  Upon timely application, anyone shall be permitted to intervene in an action: (1)when a provision of the Tennessee Constitution, the United States Constitution, or a statute confers an unconditional right to intervene; or (2) when the applicant claims an interest relating to the subject matter of the action and the applicant is so situated that the disposition of the action may, as a practical matter, impair or impede the applicant’s ability to protect that interest unless the applicant’s interest is adequately represented by an existing party; or (3) by written stipulation of all of the parties.

(b)  Permissive Intervention.  Upon timely application, anyone may be permitted to intervene in an action: (1) when a statute confers a conditional right to intervene; or (2) when an applicant’s claim or defense and the main action have a question of law or fact in common. In exercising its discretion, the court shall consider whether intervention will unduly delay or prejudice the adjudication of the rights of the original parties.

(c)  Procedure.  Except for interventions for the purpose of modification of an order pursuant to Rule 310, anyone desiring to intervene shall serve a written motion to intervene upon the parties as provided in Rule 103. The motion shall state the grounds for the requested intervention and shall further state the claim or defense for which intervention is sought. For a person seeking to intervene as a matter of right, the motion shall state the statute or constitutional provision which gives the person the right to intervene. The court shall conduct a hearing on the motion to intervene as soon as practicable after filing of the motion.

Advisory Commission Comments.   

The original Rules of Juvenile Procedure did not contain a process for seeking intervention. The Tennessee Supreme Court concluded that intervention in juvenile court should be analyzed under the provisions of Rule 24 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure, specifically finding that application of the rule “would not compromise the efficacy of juvenile proceedings.” Gonzalez v. Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, 136 S.W. 3d 613, 617 (Tenn. 2004). Other jurisdictions have concluded that the state’s rules of civil procedure should govern intervention in juvenile court. See In re T.H., 753 S.E. 2d 207, 211 (N.C. App. 2014). Consequently, the language of this Rule is taken nearly verbatim from Rule 24 of the Tennessee Rules of Civil Procedure.

Subdivision (a) preserves any statutory right to intervene in a specific action and allows interventions by right when an applicant can show that the disposition of the action will, as a practical matter, impair that person’s ability to protect the asserted interest. Permissive intervention, which is directed to the discretion of the juvenile court, is allowed when the person seeking intervention can show a claim or defense which is in common with or has questions of fact or law common to the claims and defenses of an original party. Allowing intervention is designed to prevent multiple litigation without unduly delaying the proceeding in the juvenile court. The court’s discretion to permit intervention under subdivision (b) should be exercised in the context of the purposes of the Juvenile Court Act —particularly the provision of a “simple judicial procedure...in which the parties are ensured a fair hearing[.]” T.C.A. § 37-1-101.

For the purposes of intervention, the term “person” includes any public or private agency – in particular, the Department of Children’s Services when the Department is not the original petitioner. A person’s application to intervene must be “timely”; that concept again is to be considered within the purposes of the Juvenile Court Act. The procedure established in subdivision (c) presumes that the court will address the issue of intervention as soon as practicable without delaying the resolution of the action in question and without compromising the best interest of the child involved.

The rule does not attempt to define which persons can automatically intervene and which are to be automatically excluded from intervention. That determination will be made on an individual basis depending upon the particular facts of the case and the stage of the proceeding in which intervention is sought. A court also has the authority to allow intervention on a limited basis. See In re Marquise T.G., No. M2011-00809-COA-R3-JV, 2012 Tenn. Ct. App. LEXIS 324, 2012 WL 1825766 (Tenn. Ct. App, 2012)(grandmother allowed to intervene for  the purpose of seeking visitation, but not allowed to intervene to seek custody).

When a person seeks to intervene for the purpose of modification of an order, the person should refer to Rule 310.

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