Dependency and neglect is a legal proceeding intended to protect children from harmful parents, custodians, or situations and to provide non-parents an avenue to obtain custody when it is in the best interest of the child. The main purpose of dependency and neglect proceedings is to provide for the care and protection of children whose parents are unfit or unwilling to care for them.
Juvenile courts have exclusive, original jurisdiction over dependency and neglect cases, meaning no other type of court (i.e. Chancery, Circuit, Criminal, etc.) may hear a dependency and neglect case. Dependency and neglect cases are typically tried in two phases: 1) the adjudication phase, and 2) the disposition phase. In the adjudication phase, the petitioner (the one making the allegations) must prove that the child is dependent and neglected within the meaning of the law. Tenn. Code Ann. Section 1-102(b)(12) provides the definition of dependency and neglect for the purposes of the law, and provides ten scenarios in which a child may be dependent and neglected.
A child may be found to be dependent and neglected, among other situations, when:
If the Court finds that one of the grounds for dependency and neglect have been proven by clear and convincing evidence (this is a higher standard than typical civil cases), only then will it move on to the dispositional phase. The dispositional phase is where the Court will provide a custodial arrangement that is in the best interest of the child. There are certain factors that the court will consider when determining what is in the best interest of the child. For a discussion on child custody, contact the Memphis, TN Dependency and Neglect Attorney from Patterson Bray today.