Serving Clients in Knox, Blount, Anderson, Loudon, Sevier & Roane Counties

Juvenile Court: What the Process Looks Like

Children end up in juvenile court in one of three ways:

1. They are “delinquent,” meaning they broke a criminal law;
2. They are “unruly,” meaning they won’t listen to their parents; or
3. They are “dependent and neglected,” meaning their parents are not taking adequate care of them.

In cases of alleged neglect, the process looks a bit different.

First, the Court will determine if the allegations are bad enough to warrant signing an emergency order.  If the allegation is that the child is truant, then the Court is unlikely to sign an emergency order.  An allegation that the child has an untreated injury means that the Court will likely sign the emergency order.

If the Court signs an emergency order, custody is immediately transferred to the petitioner, whether that’s a private citizen or the Department of Children’s Services.  The petitioner will immediately take the child into their care.  From there, the case will be set for hearing within three business days. This is both to get everyone in front of the Judge and give parents an opportunity to tell their side of the story.

If the Court decides there is no emergency, the other parent will have thirty days to file a formal document called an Answer.  From there, a lawyer (referred to as a Guardian Ad Litem) will be appointed to represent the best interest of the child, and the case will be set for a final hearing. The final hearing usually takes place about six months later.  During the months between the parent getting served and the final hearing, lots of work needs to be done; collecting the evidence to demonstrate abuse or neglect – and if they have, whether the other parent is fixing the problem, and where the safest, most attentive environment to raise the child might be.


To win a case in juvenile court, you have to present more evidence than would be necessary to win a case in divorce court.  You have to demonstrate, using clear and convincing evidence, that abuse or neglect has occurred.  Then you have to show that the other parent has not fixed the issue. You must also demonstrate that the best interest of the child is to adopt your proposal for his future care.  These are fact-driven questions that require collecting a lot of specific evidence, as well as presentation of that evidence in the correct form.  That’s why you need a lawyer with plenty of experience in handling juvenile court cases.

Call us. We are here to help.