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Juvenile Common Terms

common terms

Edwards, McLeod, & Money specializes in providing expert legal advice for families or individuals facing an issue in the juvenile court system.

Because the Juvenile Court is so far removed from courts that most people are involved in, it is easy to get confused by a number of the terms that are used regularly.  Below is a list of some of those terms to assist anyone who may be currently participating in a juvenile court action.

Adjudication: Like a trial; the hearing in which a judge listens to testimony and declares if the alleged charges are true.

Affidavit: Written statement of facts; the person who signs the affidavit swears an oath that the information given is true.

Allegation: A charge or claim made against someone.

Appeal: A complaint to a higher court asking to overturn the decision made by a lower court.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate): A specially trained community member who is selected by the judge to advocate for the best interests of the child.

Case Plan: The list of steps that all parties must take before a child returns to the parents home; it is very important that parents follow the case plan and complete every requirement of the plan; case plans are reviewed at least every 6 months.

Case Manager: The person employed by DFACS to monitor the progress that a family is making on their case plan; the case manager can assist in providing services to the family and arranging visitation with the children.

Child Abuse: When a parent or caretaker intentionally injures a child; when a parent or caretaker intentionally neglects or exploits a child; any sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.

Child Advocate: See also Guardian Ad Litem; Attorney assigned by the judge to represent the best interests of a child; the child advocate does not work for DFACS or for either parent of the child.

Citizen Review Panel: A group of trained community members who review the progress a family is making on their case plan and report those findings to the judge.

Complaint: A formal charge or allegation made against another person.

Consent Agreement: An agreement between all the parties as to facts of the deprivation.  This can be entered into in place of having a full adjudication if all parties are in agreement.

CPS (Child Protective Services): The section of DFACS that responds to initial complaints of possible abuse of deprivation.

Custodian: Person who has been given physical custody of a child and is required to provide for that child’s needs and safety.

Delinquency: Juvenile actions or conduct in violation of criminal law and, in some contexts, status offenders.

Delinquent: Juvenile who has been adjudicated by a judicial officer of a juvenile court as having committed a delinquent act.

Deprived Child:

  • A child who is not receiving proper parental care; this includes a child who is not getting proper food, is not going to school, or is not       receiving proper medical care;
  • A child who has been illegally adopted;
  • A child who has been abandoned;
  • A child who does not have a parent or guardian.

  • DFACS (Division of Family And Children Services): A state agency under the Department of Human Resources that provides child protection services and case management services families.

    Disposition: Hearing after the adjudication to determine where a child will live while the parents complete the case plan.

    Ex-Parte Communication: Any communication, written, oral or otherwise, made to the Judge outside of the courtroom or without all parties present.

    Foster Care: State licensed temporary home, group home or shelter where a child may stay during court proceedings and while the parents work on the terms of the case plan.

    Guardian: Person, other than the parent, who has legal responsibility for a child.

    Guardian ad Litem: See also Child Advocate; Attorney assigned by the judge to represent the best interests of a child; the Guardian ad Litem does not work for DFACS or for either parent of the child.

    Hearing: A trail or proceeding before a judge.

    Jurisdiction: The power of a court to hear a case.

    Legal Father: A man who has a legal right to be included in the upbringing and care of a child; a legal father is one of the following:

  • A man who is married to the mother at the time a child was conceived or born;
  • A man who is not married to the mother, but acknowledges paternity and legitimates the child through a court action; or administratively at the hospital.
  • A biological father who acknowledges paternity and marries the mother.

  • Note: Naming a man as the biological father on a birth certificate, merely determining paternity through a blood test or ordering him to pay child support does not necessarily make him a legal father.

    Legitimation: The process in which a man acknowledges paternity and establishes a legal father-child relationship.

    Mandated Reporter: A person required by law to report suspicion of a child abuse; this includes doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, childcare providers and others.

    Mediation: Alternative to court proceeding where families try to reach solution on their own; an impartial mediator leads the session and helps the parties come to an agreement among themselves rather than having a judge decide.

    Non-Reunification: A plan in which custody will not go back to the parents; in some cases, non-reunification plans may precede a termination of parental rights action.

    Party: Either the petitioner or the respondent in a lawsuit. The parties to a deprivation case are DFACS, parents and the child advocate.

    Permanency Hearing: A hearing after the disposition to determine what the permanent plan for the child is going to be; Federal law says this hearing must take place no later than 1 YEAR after the day a child is taken into custody.

    Petition: A legal document that states the reasons the court should get involved in a matter and asks the court to take a certain action.

    Petitioner: Party that is making the claim of abuse or deprivation against the parents.

    Putative Father: Man who is alleged to be the biological father of a child; putative fathers have no legal rights to the child, but can establish those rights by legitimating the child.

    Respondent: Person against whom allegations or charges are brought.

    SAAG (Special Assistant Attorney General): the lawyer who represents DFACS.

    Settlement Conference: An informal proceeding where the complainants and the respondents get together prior to an Adjudication to determine if the parties can come to a consent agreement regarding the deprivation.

    Status Offense: Act that is declared by statute to be an offense but only when committed by a juvenile. It can be adjudicated only by a juvenile court.

    Subpoena: A legal document requiring a person to come to court; if you get a subpoena, you must come to court.

    Summons: A legal document notifying you of a court case and telling you when to come to court.

    TPR (Termination of Parental Rights): Legal and permanent severance of the parent-child relationship; if parental rights are terminated, the parents are legally as strangers to the child and lose all rights and responsibilities to the child.  The child may become eligible for adoption.

    Edwards, McLeod, & Money are located in Douglasville, GA; and serves as the premier West Georgia attorneys. Our firm has a solid record of successfully winning legal actions on a wide range of issues throughout West Georgia and the entire Atlanta Metro area.