FAQs – Juvenile Court
What is Delinquency?
“Delinquent” is the term used by the juvenile court the same way “guilty” is used in an adult court. A delinquent child is a minor who has committed a crime under Georgia law, or the laws of another state, and is in need of treatment and rehabilitation
What is Termination of Parental Rights?
Terminating the parental rights of a parent removes that parent’s and his/her child’s legal rights, powers, privilege, immunities, duties, and obligations with respect to each other, except under the following circumstances.
- The right of such child to receive child support from his/her parent until a final order of adoption is entered;
- The right of such child to inherit from and through his/her parent until a final order of adoption is entered; and
- The right of such child to pursue any civil action against his/her parent.
My child has a pending delinquency case, am I entitled to representation?
All parties to a trial have the right to representation. The child has the same rights as an adult and is entitled to a fair trial, which includes representation. If a parent is also a party to the trial, that parent too is entitled to representation.
What are the possible consequences if my child is found guilty of a crime?
Child who is found guilty of a delinquent act, or a child who admits guilt can be punished to juvenile detention, probation, community service, placed in foster care, subjects to fines or fees, be required to attend and complete rehabilitative programs, classes or sessions.
At what age can a child be charged with a crime?
In the state of Georgia, a person cannot be found guilty of a crime if said crime was committed before the child turned 13 years of age. The child can only be found, delinquent.
My child is a minor why is he being charged as an adult?
In the state of Georgia certain crimes committed by minor children between the ages of 13 and 17 are automatically tried in an adult court. These crimes include murder, voluntary manslaughter, rape, aggravated sodomy, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sexual battery, and armed robbery, if committed with a firearm. The case can be transferred to juvenile court, but an attorney must ask the adult court to do so.
What is the goal of juvenile court?
The purpose of juvenile court is not to punish, but to rehabilitate. This includes all members of the family, not just the child. Lots of times, the acting out of a child is caused by stressful or unhealthy conditions in the home. The juvenile court wants to make sure that the child is growing up in a healthy living environment and that his/her life has structure. The juvenile court will always do what is in the best interest of the child.
What are the grounds for a Termination of Parental Rights?
Grounds for termination of parental rights include that the child is without proper parental care or control, the child is not receiving an education required by law, the child is not receiving the necessary care for his/her physical, mental, or emotional health or morals, or the child has been abandoned.
What is CHINS?
CHINS is the acronym for Child in Need of Services. A child in need of services is one that is in need of care, guidance, counseling, structure, supervision, treatment, or rehabilitation. A child in need of services is one who has committed an offense that is only a violation of the law because he/she is a minor child.
What are the grounds for a CHINS petition?
A CHINS petition can be filed with the court by anyone with an interest in the child. This can be a teacher, social worker, police officer, etc. Any of the following offenses are grounds for a CHINS petition:
- Habitually disobedient or ungovernable
- Running away
- Loitering the streets between the hours of midnight and 5:00 A.M.
- Disobeying a court order
- Patronizing a bar where alcoholic beverages are served
- Possessing alcohol
What are the consequences of a CHINS case?
If the child is found delinquent by the juvenile court, he or she may be:
- Returned to the parents or legal guardian
- Put on probation or unsupervised probation
- Ordered to complete community service
- Ordered to repay for any damages made
- Ordered to attend structured afterschool programs
Or the court may choose any combination of the above sentences.
My child has been charged with CHINS, is a parent entitled to representation too?
Yes. All parties to a trial are entitled to representation. Because a parent is a party to the CHINS trial, he or she is entitled to representation. This means that if the parent cannot afford to hire an attorney, one will be appointed to the parent by the court.
Does my child need representation?
Yes. The child is entitled to representation of his or her own choosing but if the child cannot afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint one.
What is a Guardian Ad Litem?
A Guardian Ad Litem (GAL) is a court-appointed third party that is there to represent the best interests of the child. The GAL has the power to investigate all matters pertaining to the child, including home visits, interviews with the parents, and anything else that would help the GAL determine what is in the best interest of the child. After the GAL’s investigation he/she will then give a recommendation to the court as to what actions should be taken that are in the best interest of the child.
What is a dependency?
A dependent child is one who has been abused, neglected, or is without a parent or legal guardian and is in need of protection by the government. The child is therefore dependent on the government for the protection of his or her well-being.
Who all needs an attorney?
Anyone who is a party to a trial needs their own attorney. Each party deserves an attorney who will represent that party’s interests only.
Is the Department of Family and Child Services always involved in dependency cases?
Yes, the Department of Family and Child Services will help to develop a case plan for the parents or legal guardian to ensure that the child will be returned to a safe and stable environment.
What is a case plan?
A case plan is a document created by the Department of Family and Child Services, along with the parents or legal guardian of the child if appropriate, explaining why the child has been brought into protective custody and what steps must be taken before the child may be returned to his/her parents or legal guardian. The case plan is a list of instructions that must be followed in order to show the court that the child will be returned to a safe and stable home.
What is foster care?
Foster care is the temporary residential care of a minor child. This can include group care, residential care, institutional care, or the placing of the minor child in a nonbiological foster family.
What happens to a child when they reach the age of 18 and are in foster care?
A minor child who reaches the age of 18 in foster care has the option to remain in foster care until he/she turns 21 years of age, or he/she may choose to leave foster care and live on his/her own.
Are siblings always kept together while in foster care?
While every effort is made to keep siblings together in foster care, it cannot be guaranteed.
What is the McKinney–Vento Act?
The McKinney–Vento Act addresses the problem of educating homeless children. A homeless child is not defined as one living on the street, but as one that no longer lives at his/her original home. This can include children living in foster care or some other group home. It states that homeless children are entitled to the same free public education all other children have access to. It also states that homeless children should be allowed to continue their education at the school they originally attended before being removed from their homes in order to maintain stability in the life of the child. This means that a child who has been removed from his/her home may still attend the same school in the community in which he/she grew up and has friends. This can involve bussing the child back to his/her home district or by some other means of transportation.