Dependent and Neglect Proceedings

215

Rule 307: Adjudicatory Hearings.

(a)  Scope of Hearing.  The adjudicatory hearing is the proceeding at which the court determines whether the evidence supports a finding that a child is dependent and neglected. The adjudicatory hearing shall be held in accordance with T.C.A. § 37-1-129.

(b)  Time Limits on Scheduling Adjudicatory Hearings.

(1)  All cases in which a child has been placed out of the home by court order shall be heard within 30 days of the date the child was placed outside of the home. All other cases shall be heard within 30 days of the date of filing of the petition if such early scheduling appears to the court to be reasonable and possible considering the circumstances of the case, including but not limited to, whether service on all parties has been achieved. In any event, every case shall be heardfor adjudication within 90 days of either the date the child was placed outside the home or date of filing of the petition, as applicable.  

(2)  Upon good cause shown, the adjudicatory hearing may be continued to a date certain.

(c)    Beginning Adjudicatory Hearing. 

(1)  At the beginning of each hearing, the court shall:

(A)  Ascertain whether the parties before the court are represented by attorneys;

(B)  Verify the name, age and residence of the child who is the subject of the case, and ascertain the relationship of the parties, each to the other;

(C)  Ascertain whether all necessary parties are present;

(D)  Ascertain whether notice requirements have been complied with, and if not, whether the affected parties knowingly and voluntarily waive compliance;

(E)  Explain to the parties the purpose of the hearing and the possible consequences thereof; and

(F)  Explain to the parties their rights as set forth in Rule 303.

(d)  Evidence Admissible.  The court shall consider only evidence which has been formally admitted at the adjudicatory hearing. All testimony shall be under oath and may be in narrative form. Evidence shall be admitted as provided by the Tennessee Rules of Evidence.

(e)   Adjudication of Status, Standard of Proof, and Findings.

(1)  At the conclusion of the adjudicatory hearing, the court shall enter an order in accordance with the following provisions:

(A)  If the court finds that the allegations have not been proved by clear and convincing evidence, it shall dismiss the petition.

               (B)  If the court finds that the allegations have been proved by clear and 
               convincing evidence, it shall adjudicate the child dependent and neglected.  
               The court shall immediately proceed to a dispositional hearing or schedule it
                to be heard on a later date.

(C)  If the court finds that the child is dependent and neglected, the court shall additionally make a finding whether the parents or either of them or another person who had custody of the child committed severe child abuse.

(2)  The court shall include findings of fact in its adjudicatory order. The adjudicatory order shall be filed within 30 days of the close of the hearing or, if a petition for certiorari is filed, within 5 days thereafter.

(f)  Transfer to Home County for Disposition.  The case of an out-of-county resident may be transferred to the child’s county of residence for disposition.

Advisory Commission Comments.

The varying time limits in these rules for children placed out of the home by court order versus those who remain in the home indicate that cases involving children placed out of the home be given priority on the docket. All hearings should be scheduled and held as speedily as possible in the interest of providing timely resolution for children and families. It is important that whatever action is taken be completed expeditiously, within the limits of practicability, given the fact that a child's perception of time is quite different from that of an adult, with shorter periods of time perceived as being much extended.

Some proceedings may be so complex that the court and parties may benefit from a pretrial conference to narrow or limit issues, decide evidentiary issues, and address other pretrial matters so as to achieve judicial economy.

This rule clarifies that the court must file its written adjudicatory hearing order within 30 days from the closing of the hearing, or, if a petition for certiorari is filed, within 5 days thereafter, pursuant to T.C.A. § 37-1-129(a). See Rule 110 for the computation of time.

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