Tennessee Code Annotated

Title 37: Juveniles

Chapter 1: Juvenile Courts and Proceedings

Part 1: General Provisions

TCA 37-1-129: Hearings -- Findings -- Disposition of child -- Interdepartmental case management team -- Pilot projects.

(a) (1) After hearing the evidence on the petition, the court shall make and file its findings as to whether the child is a dependent or neglected child, or, if the petition alleges that the child is delinquent or unruly, whether the acts ascribed to the child were committed by that child. If the court finds that the child is not a dependent or neglected child or that the allegations of delinquency or unruly conduct have not been established, it shall dismiss the petition and order the child discharged from any detention or other restriction theretofore ordered in the proceeding.

(2) If the petition alleged the child was dependent and neglected as defined in SC 37-1-102(b)(12)(G), or if the court so finds regardless of the grounds alleged in the petition, the court shall determine whether the parents or either of them or another person who had custody of the child committed severe child abuse. The court shall file written findings of fact that are the basis of its conclusions on that issue within thirty (30) days of the close of the hearing or, if an appeal or a petition for certiorari is filed, within five (5) days thereafter, excluding Sundays.

(b) If the court finds on proof beyond a reasonable doubt that the child committed the acts by reason of which the child is alleged to be delinquent, it shall proceed immediately or at a postponed hearing to hear evidence as to whether the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation and to make and file its findings thereon. If the court finds that the child is not in need of treatment or rehabilitation, it may dismiss the proceeding and discharge the child from any detention or other restriction theretofore ordered. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, evidence of the commission of acts that constitute a felony or that reflect recidivistic delinquency is sufficient to sustain a finding that the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation.

(c) If the court finds from clear and convincing evidence that the child is dependent, neglected or unruly, the court shall proceed immediately or at a postponed hearing to make a proper disposition of the case.

(d) In hearings under subsections (b) and (c), all evidence helpful in determining the questions presented, including oral and written reports, may be received by the court and relied upon to the extent of its probative value even though not otherwise competent in the hearing on the petition. The parties or their counsel shall be afforded an opportunity to examine and controvert written reports so received and to cross-examine individuals making the reports. Sources of confidential information need not be disclosed.

(e) (1) Any order of the court that places custody of a child with the department shall empower the department to select any specific residential or treatment placements or programs for the child according to the determination made by the department, its employees, agents or contractors.

(2) The court may review the residential or treatment placement of a child placed in the department's custody, and within ninety (90) days of the placement, the court may, on its own motion, order a hearing to receive evidence and testimony with regard to the appropriateness of the child's residential or treatment placement. The court shall provide notice of the hearing to the department, to the child's biological parent or parents, and any other person who has been primarily responsible for the care of the child during the twelve (12) months prior to the child's placement in the department's custody. The court shall allow thirty (30) days from the time such notices are sent before the hearing date is set. The court shall issue a placement recommendation based on a preponderance of the evidence to the department within ten (10) days after the conclusion of the hearing. Upon receiving the court's recommendation, the department shall issue a determination as to the child's placement within fifteen (15) days. The department shall notify the court, the child's biological parent or parents, and any other person who has been primarily responsible for the care of the child during the twelve (12) months prior to the child's placement.

(f) On its own motion or that of a party, the court may continue the hearings under this section for a reasonable period to receive reports and other evidence bearing on the disposition or the need for treatment or rehabilitation. In this event, the court shall make an appropriate order for detention of the child, or the child's release from detention, subject to supervision of the court during the period of the continuance. In scheduling investigations and hearings, the court shall give priority to proceedings in which a child is in detention or has otherwise been removed from the child's home before an order of disposition has been made.

History: Acts 1970, ch. 600, SC 29; 1977, ch. 482, SC 3; T.C.A., SC 37-229; Acts 1986, ch. 837, SC 2; 1987, ch. 240, SC 1; 1989, ch. 277, SC 1; 1989, ch. 278, SC 42; 1996, ch. 1079, SCSC 73, 89; 1997, ch. 479, SC 1; 2004, ch. 859, SC 1; 2010, ch. 820, SC 1; 2012, ch. 1016, SC 1.