Article II. Prehearing Procedures


Rule 22: Agreed Orders in Civil Matters.

(a) General Provisions. Most civil matters within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court may be resolved by a written agreement between the parties, submitted to the court in the form of an agreed order. An agreed order, upon being approved by the court and entered in its minutes, becomes the order or decree of the court with all of the force and effect that any order would have after a full hearing prior to adjudication. An agreed order should recite that the parties are aware that the agreement is based upon the order of the court and that failure to comply therewith without just cause places them in contempt of court and subjects them to such action as the court deems proper within its jurisdiction.

(b) Child Custody Cases. In child custody cases pursuant to T.C.A. § 36-2-301, et seq., when the parties are in complete agreement in matters of custody, support, and visitation, and a court hearing appears to be unnecessary, the parties may enter into an agreed order.

(c) Modification. An agreed order may thereafter be modified, due to a change of circumstances, by agreement between the parties with the approval of the court or by order of the court upon notification to the parties and a hearing. In no event shall modification of an agreed order result in a child being placed into the custody of the Department of Children’s Services without the appropriate petition having been filed with the clerk of the court alleging the child to be either dependent, neglected, abused, unruly or delinquent.

(d) Dependent, Neglect and Abuse Cases. If there is a petition alleging dependency, neglect or abuse in the matter, the court shall not approve an agreed order regarding custody, support, or visitation awarded to a party other than the state unless there has been a social investigation as required by law, and the investigating agency's recommendation concurs with the agreement between the parties. This subsection shall not be construed as eliminating the judicial findings required for children in state custody by T.C.A. §§ 37-1-166 and 37-2-409 or as otherwise required by case law and federal regulations.

Advisory Commission Comments [2007].

The amendment changes the terminology of the rule from “Consent Decrees in Civil Matters” to “Agreed Orders in Civil Matters.” Because the term “consent decree” in the context of juvenile issues often carries the connotation of a settlement in a class action lawsuit, the rule has been amended to substitute “agreed order,” which appears to be a more common term for the orders memorializing agreements in juvenile court. The amendment also separates the provisions regarding agreed orders in custody cases and dependency cases into two different subsections as different considerations are required for those cases. In regard to agreed orders in custody cases, counsel is urged to carefully review the holding in Blair v. Badenhope, 77 S.W.3d 137 (Tenn. 2002), and its progeny regarding the possible impact of an agreed order changing custody from a parent to a third party on any future modification of such agreed order. In regard to dependency cases, the amendment makes clear that the statutorily required judicial findings for children in state custody must be made even when the case is settled by an agreed order. Finally, the amendment clarifies that a modification of an agreed order may not result in a child being placed in the custody of the Department of Children’s Services without the appropriate petition having been filed.

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