Family Law - Juvenile Court
Introduction to Juvenile Court
The juvenile court is a division of the superior court. It handles
three types of cases: delinquency, status offense, and dependency
(child abuse and neglect).
Delinquency: These cases involve children who have committed
law violations that would be considered crimes if committed by an
Status Offenses: These offenses concern noncriminal behaviors
that are illegal because of the child's age. These behaviors are
not illegal for adults. For example, typical status offenses are
truancy (cutting school) and running away from home.
Dependency: These are cases that concern family situations
where allegations of abuse or neglect have been made and the juvenile
court intervenes to protect the family's children.
The juvenile court has broad authority in juvenile delinquency and
dependency cases. It can remove children from their homes, order
their placement with relatives or in foster care or group homes,
terminate parental rights, create new parental rights, and join
various agencies to provide needed services. In delinquency cases,
the juvenile court can also order children to be confined in locked
facilities, such as detention halls, ranches, and the California
Whenever the court decides to remove a child from his or her home,
placement and responsibility for that child is given to a governmental
agency. It can also order services to be provided that will allow
children to remain in their homes safely. In delinquency and status
offense cases, that agency is the probation department; in dependency
(abuse and neglect) cases, the agency is the county welfare department.
The agency is responsible for meeting the health and educational
needs of the child, as well as providing the care, treatment, and
guidance the child may need.
Because these decisions are so serious and affect fundamental rights,
it is very important that, if a juvenile case involves you or your
child, you consult an attorney who can advise you more specifically
about the court process as it relates to your case.
Right to an Attorney
The child in a delinquency case has a right to an attorney; a parent
in a dependency (abuse and neglect) case has a right to an attorney;
and the court must appoint an attorney for the child in an abuse
and neglect case unless the court finds the child would not benefit
from the appointment.