Juvenile Court Does Have Jurisdiction to Enter Orders of Protection in Tennessee in Limited Circumstances
Because jurisdiction of courts often overlap with Circuit and Chancery Courts, the Tennessee Attorney General's office issued Opinion No. 13-98 on December 6, 2013, to determine if juvenile courts have the authority to enter orders of protection in regards to children born out of wedlock.
First, it had to be determined if juvenile court meets the statutory requirements to enter these type of orders. According to Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 36-3-605 and 36-3-601(3), orders of protection can only be entered by courts of record that have jurisdiction over domestic-relation matters.
Juvenile courts are created by statute, and its jurisdiction is limited by same. Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-207 stipulates that juvenile courts are courts of record. The code defines the court to have jurisdiction over many domestic relation matters to include, but not limited to, domestic abuse and sexual assault (Tenn. Code Ann. § 36-3-601(3)) which are often the subject of an order of protection. Tenn. Code Ann. § 31-1-104(f) further defines this jurisdiction as follows:
Notwithstanding any provision of law to the contrary, the juvenile court has concurrent jurisdiction with the circuit and chancery court of proceedings to establish the paternity of children born out of lawful wedlock and to determine any custody, visitation, support, education or other issues regarding the care and control of children born out of wedlock.
This statute limits juvenile court's jurisdiction to: (1) establish paternity of children born out of wedlock, and (2) determine matters of "custody, visitation, support, education or other issues regarding the care and control of children born out of wedlock." A petition for an order of protection can fall under either of these parameters; therefore, it was determined that a juvenile court would have jurisdiction to enter an order of protection involving a child born out of wedlock.