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Dependent and Neglect


A Dependent and Neglected child is a specified category of abused children as set out in Tennessee Law.  Such children are alleged to be at risk of serious need and the state attempts to remove such children from very specific types of harm.  

The definition of a child who is found dependent and neglected is defined as follows:

(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


(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)(13)(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)(13)(J)(ii)(a) because of the parent's military service shall not be subject to action pursuant to § 37-1-183;

Procedure in a Dependency and Neglect case

Cases for Dependent and Neglect may be instituted either privately, by the Department for Children Services or by filing to invoke the Juvenile Court's jurisdiction in a Divorce or Post-Divorce action.  


Once a Petition for Dependency and Neglect has been filed, several processes take place.

First the Court will set a preliminary hearing date, attempt to have the parents served appoint a Guardian ad litem (an attorney for the Children.)

In Juvenile Court the Court will almost always appoint an attorney if requested by a parent, unless that parent has already lost custody of the child or children.

Next the court will set dates for an adjudicatory and disposition hearings.  During this time investigations will continue by the Guardian ad litem, parents attorneys and the Department of Children Services if the Department has an open case.  


The thrust of such proceedings is to protect the child or children while determining if the family can be reconciled with either services or correction of the conditions bringing the matter before the court.  

Such cases are very serious and could possibly lead to the termination of a parent's rights in their child or children.  


If you are a parent that has been accused of abuse, it can be overwhelming to navigate the procedure in such cases. You should contact an experienced attorney to assist you. 

Talking with the  Rasberry Family Law Group can help you understand your options.


We serve clients in Germantown, Millington, Cordova, Bartlett, Collierville, Shelby County, Fayette County & Tipton County.


Contact us to schedule a confidential consultation at our conveniently located office in Memphis, Tennessee. Call us at 901-567-7215, or send us an email at

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Rasberry Family Law Group
8711 Oak Trail Lane

Cordova, TN 38018



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