Article III. Adjudicatory and Dispositional Hearings


Rule 32: Dispositional Hearings; Orders.

The purpose of dispositions in juvenile court actions is to design an appropriate plan to meet the needs of the child and to achieve the objectives of the state in exercising jurisdiction. When possible, the initial approach should involve working with the child and the family in their own home so that the appropriate community resources may be involved in care, supervision, and treatment according to the needs of the child.

(a) Separate from Adjudicatory Hearing. A dispositional hearing shall be separate and distinct from the adjudicatory hearing to which it relates. It may be held, however, immediately following the adjudicatory hearing or at a later date in the discretion of the court.

(b) Temporary Order.  Detention Thereunder. Where a continuance of the dispositional hearing is ordered, the court may enter such temporary order as in its discretion seems proper under the circumstances, having due regard for the welfare of the child. Detention may be provided for under a temporary order in accordance with Rule 15(b), but only where such detention appears as a matter of record to be necessary for the protection of the child or others, or where necessary to assure the child's appearance at the subsequent dispositional hearing.

(c) Predisposition Report/Social History; Medical and Psychological Examinations.

(1) Prior to the holding of a dispositional hearing:

(i) The court may order a predisposition study pursuant to Rule 33, unless for special reasons in a particular case the court concludes that such a study is unnecessary; and

(ii) The court may order medical and psychological examinations pursuant to T.C.A. §§ 37-1-128 and 37-1-135 and Rules 29 and 38.

(2) Upon receipt of the predisposition report and any medical and psychological reports, the court shall notify each unrepresented party and the attorney for each represented party and make the reports available for inspection in accordance with Rule 33(e).

(d) Beginning Dispositional Hearing.  All dispositional hearings before the juvenile court shall be conducted in accordance with T.C.A. § 37-1-129.

(e) Presentation of Evidence; Argument. The court may consider such evidence as may be presented by a party, reserving the right to all parties to cross-examine and make argument.

(f) Evidence Admissible; Standard of Proof.  In arriving at its dispositional decision, the court shall consider only evidence which has been formally admitted, and the juvenile court record of the child. All testimony shall be under oath and may be in narrative form. The rules of evidence shall apply except that reliable hearsay including, but not limited to, certified copies of convictions or documents such as psychiatric or psychological evaluations of the child or the child's parents or custodian or reports prepared by the Department of Children's Services, may be admitted provided that the opposing party is accorded a fair opportunity to rebut any hearsay evidence so admitted. However, this subsection shall not be construed to authorize the introduction of any evidence secured in violation of the Constitution of the United States or of the state of Tennessee. The parties shall have the right to examine any person who has prepared any report admitted into evidence. The standard of proof at the dispositional hearing is preponderance of the evidence.

(g) Dispositional Order; Entry.  At the conclusion of the dispositional hearing, or as otherwise provided in Rule 18, the court shall enter a dispositional order in accordance with the provisions of T.C.A. § 37-1-131 (delinquent child), § 37-1-132 (unruly child), or § 37-1-130 (neglected or dependent child), as the case may be.

(h) Advisement of Right to an Appeal.  At the dispositional hearing, the court shall advise the respondent of the right to appeal as provided in Rule 36.

(i) Expense of Disposition.  Every commitment or placement of a delinquent, unruly, or dependent or neglected child shall, where practicable, be at the expense of the parent, guardian, or custodian of the child according to the ability of such persons to assume said expense. The court shall by order provide for the payment of such expense and where feasible obtain a written recognition of this obligation from said persons.

(j) Orders to Be in Writing.  All dispositional orders of the court shall be in writing and signed by the judge.

(k) Foster Care Review.  In all cases, if the original disposition order places the child in foster care, the court shall conduct or provide for review as required by T.C.A. title 37, chapter 2, part 4. [As amended by order entered January 31, 1984, effective July 1, 1984.]

Advisory Commission Comments.

In choosing among statutorily permissible dispositions in delinquent and unruly cases, the judge should select the least restrictive disposition both in terms of kind and duration that is appropriate to the seriousness of the offense, the degree of culpability indicated by the circumstances of the particular case, and the age and prior record of the child. A child should not be committed to any institution if, consistent with the public safety, the child can be treated and rehabilitated through community-level resources.

 The committee intends that dispositional hearings and dispositional orders in unruly cases be in accordance with the federal “valid court order”regulations, found in the appendix to these rules. The committee further encourages the making of written findings of fact and reasons for ordering particular dispositions within the law.

 At both the adjudicatory hearing and the dispositional hearing, it is appropriate that youth services and probation officers be witnesses regarding admissible evidence of which they have knowledge. However, neither youth services officers nor probation officers should present cases or otherwise act as prosecution for the state in any juvenile court hearing, except as provided in T.C.A. § 37-1-128, regarding revocation of probation proceedings.

 Local rules should provide procedures for the obtaining of the psychiatric and psychological evaluations discussed in subsection (f), including provisions for such evaluations in cases in which a person or child at issue is indigent, and including provisions for the subpoenaing of persons who may have prepared any such evaluations.

 Regarding review of dispositional orders, all orders which place a child under court-directed supervision pursuant to T.C.A. § 37-1-131 (delinquent child), § 37-1-132 (unruly child), or § 37-1-130 (dependent and neglected child), may be reviewed by the court in accordance with the provisions of Rules 34 and 35. The committee encourages courts to keep track of all such cases either informally, or formally as provided in Rule 34. In cases involving commitment of a child to the Department of Children's Services, review is governed by T.C.A. § 37-1-137. See also Rule 36 and T.C.A. §§ 37-1-107, 37-1-138, 37-1-159, on the review of juvenile court cases.

Advisory Commission Comment [2009].

The final sentence of revised Rule 32(f) provides for a preponderance of evidence standard of proof at dispositional hearings.

Advisory Commission Comments [2012].

The 2012 amendment changes the last paragraph of the original Advisory Commission Comments by substituting the term “Department of Children’s Services” for the term “Department of Correction,” consistent with statutory changes enacted by the General Assembly.

Back to Top