In Tennessee, the Juvenile Court will have exclusive original jurisdiction in proceedings in which a child is “alleged” to be Dependent and Neglected. These cases can be brought by the Department of Children’s Services or by a private party.
“Dependent and Neglected child” means a child:
(A) Who is without a parent, guardian or legal custodian;
(B) Whose parent, guardian or person with whom the child lives, by reason of cruelty, mental incapacity, immorality or depravity is unfit to properly care for such child;
(C) Who is under unlawful or improper care, supervision, custody or restraint by any person, corporation, agency, association, institution, society or other organization or who is unlawfully kept out of school;
(D) Whose parent, guardian or custodian neglects or refuses to provide necessary medical, surgical, institutional or hospital care for such child;
(E) Who, because of lack of proper supervision, is found in any place the existence of which is in violation of law;
(F) Who is in such condition of want or suffering or is under such improper guardianship or control as to injure or endanger the morals or health of such child or others;
(G) Who is suffering from abuse or neglect;
(H) Who has been in the care and control of one (1) or more agency or person not related to such child by blood or marriage for a continuous period of six (6) months or longer in the absence of a power of attorney or court order, and such person or agency has not initiated judicial proceedings seeking either legal custody or adoption of the child;
(I) Who is or has been allowed, encouraged or permitted to engage in prostitution or obscene or pornographic photographing, filming, posing, or similar activity and whose parent, guardian or other custodian neglects or refuses to protect such child from further such activity; or
(J)(i) Who has willfully been left in the sole financial care and sole physical care of a related caregiver for not less than eighteen (18) consecutive months by the child’s parent, parents or legal custodian to the related caregiver, and the child will suffer substantial harm if removed from the continuous care of such relative;
(ii) For the purposes of this subdivision (b)(12)(J):
(a) A related caregiver shall include the child’s biological, step or legal grandparent, great grandparent, sibling, aunt, uncle or any other person who is legally or biologically related to the child; and (b) A child willfully left with a related caregiver as defined in subdivision (b)(12)(J)(ii)(a) because of the parent’s military service shall not be subject to action.
In Cases where there is an allegation that a child is Dependant and Neglected the Petitioner will bear the Burden Of Proof by Clear and Convincing Evidence that the child is Dependant and Neglected. If you find yourself in a situation where you either have to defend against a Petition that has been filed against you, or if you want to file a Petition alleging a child is Dependant and Neglected, you must consult with the best attorney for you.