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What is Juvenile Court and what cases do they hear in Georgia

What is Juvenile Court and what cases do they hear in Georgia?  Obviously, cases involving juveniles are heard in the juvenile court.  The cases heard in juvenile court can be divided into two main categories, which are delinquency actions and deprivation actions.  In delinquency actions, the child is accused of bad conduct and in deprivation cases the parents are accused of wrong conduct toward the child.  There are of course many terms of art and euphemisms used in juvenile court but I will attempt to use everyday language to describe what juvenile courts do.


First, juvenile courts hear juvenile delinquency, unruly and traffic proceedings involving children under the age of 17 (with some exceptions for serious felonies).  These cases are ones in which the child is accused of some wrong act which if an adult would be heard in a criminal court.  Second, juvenile courts hear deprivation and termination cases, which involve cases of parental neglect or abuse.


Each county in Georgia has a juvenile court.  An appointed judge presides over the court and may be assisted by an associate judge.  Some juvenile judges are full time but some are part time judges who also have private practices.


In juvenile delinquency cases, the case will be “prosecuted” by the District Attorney’s office.  A child has a right to an attorney and he or his parents may hire an attorney or apply for a public defender if unable to hire an attorney.  As in any criminal case, it is always wise to have an attorney to look out for your interest.  This rule also applies to juvenile courts regardless of the various euphemisms used in juvenile courts, which can disguise the fact that a child is being accused of a crime and is being prosecuted.


In deprivation and termination cases, it is the parents and not the child who stand accused of wrongdoing.  These cases can be either filed by private individuals or by the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS).  Parents can hire legal representation or my request the court for appointed counsel.  Children involved in these cases may be appointed attorneys or  Guardian Ad Litem to look out for the child’s interest and well-being.


Deprivation cases can result in children being placed temporarily with relatives or in foster care.  Although, both the juvenile court and DFCS attempt to keep families together.  The Court may also enter protective orders in an attempt to avoid removing the child from their home.


In cases where the child is removed from the home, a wide array of services are provided to parents with the goal of reuniting them with their children.  In cases where parents are unable or refuse, to remedy the causes of the child’s removal the parent’s rights may be terminated and the child placed up for adoption.  However, most deprivation cases end with the child being returned to the parent’s home.


The above outline is just a rough sketch of what juvenile courts in Georgia do and is not exhaustive.  If you or your child have a case in juvenile court it is wise to seek counsel or to request a court appointed attorney if you are unable to hire an attorney.