Women Under 18 & PregnantInformation and List of Court Advocates
State law requires DCS to provide women under 18 with written information about their options if they are pregnant and/or choose to have an abortion. Questions: DCS HOTLINE: (855) 250-3440
The hotline is answered 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST Monday through Friday and from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays.
If you are under 18 and you are pregnant, you may be worried and confused about what to do next.
You can call the toll free Tennessee Department of Children’s Services hotline number at 1-855-250-3440. They can tell you about resources that can help you with this difficult decision and that can help you if you choose to continue your pregnancy and parent your child or place the baby for adoption.
State law requires DCS to provide you with written information about the procedures you must follow if you choose to have an abortion, which is the reason for this publication.
You have several options, including continuing your pregnancy and either parenting the child or allowing a relative to raise the child, or giving the baby up for adoption. Another option is to have an abortion. If you decide to have an abortion, State law requires that you have the written consent of one of your parents or your legal guardian before an abortion can be performed.
If your parents refuse to give consent, or you do not want to ask for their help, you can ask a Juvenile Court Judge to drop this requirement for you. Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-10- 301 et seq. requires that DCS provide a “court advocate” (a case manager with specialized training in the court proceedings required by this law), who can provide you with further information.
To be excused from the parental consent requirement, you must file a petition (fill out a form) in a Juvenile Court (in some counties the General Sessions Court). You may file this in any county in Tennessee. All documents from the court proceedings will be sealed to protect your confidentiality, and the hearing is not open to the public. To protect your privacy, you will use your initials instead of your name on the petition, except for one copy, which is sealed. If there is a person who is at least 18 years old who can help you, that person (called a “next friend” under the law) may participate in the court proceedings on your behalf.
The courts may not charge you any fees for the court proceedings.
The court will determine whether you are mature and well informed enough to decide to have an abortion, or whether the abortion would be in your best interest.
The court will advise you when you file the petition that you have a right to court-appointed counsel, and will appoint a lawyer for you upon your request. You will not have to pay for this lawyer.
The court must then reach a decision on your situation within 48 hours. It is possible for the 48 hour time limit to be extended at your request.
If the judge does not excuse you from the consent requirement, you can appeal the Judge’s decision to a higher court. If you think you want to appeal, it is very important to ask for a lawyer when you file your petition, because you have only 24 hours from the time of the court’s decision, or from its failure to decide in 48 hours, to file your appeal with the Circuit Court. If you need to appeal to the Circuit Court and then the Tennessee Supreme Court, the process could take more than two weeks to obtain a final decision.
No, DCS does not pay for abortions.
No, DCS will give you information about going to court and provide someone who can go with you, and coordinate with your lawyer. If you need help in deciding, DCS will refer you to other professionals who can help you.
Call the DCS court advocate in your county: Open or Download the Court Advocate PDF directory.
You may also call the DCS toll free hotline at 1-855-250-3440 to obtain more information. The hot line is answered 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. CST Monday through Friday and from noon to 5:00 p.m. on Saturdays.