Dependency & Delinquency Cases
First thing first, juvenile law is not the same as family law. Although some family law issues may overlap in juvenile law cases, this is greatly mistaken and often times confused, even among attorneys. In Georgia, juvenile law has its own set of laws, rules, and even its own court. Juvenile courts only handle dependency (formally deprivation) and delinquent cases. However, there are some instances where the superior and juvenile courts have concurrent jurisdiction.
Dependency cases involve allegations of neglect or harm caused to a child. A dependency action may be filed by a relative, friend, concerned person or the Department of Family and Children Service (DFCS). In exigent situations where a child’s safety is at issue, a court may authorize the child to be removed from their home until the court determines whether it is safe for the child to return.
Delinquency cases are tantamount to criminal matters in state courts. However, the rules are slightly different. For example, a child charged with a criminal action in juvenile court is not entitled to a jury. The sitting judge makes the decision. The similarities, however, are that your child is entitled to legal representation at all stages of the legal process, including hearings and trial, and the State must prove their case.
Child Abuse Registry Cases (C.A.R.)
Child Abuse Registry cases or C.A.R. are not a new phenomenal in Georgia. However, they are becoming widely known as more parents or accusers have begun exercising their right to a hearing and challenging the constitutionality of the statute. A right to a CAR hearing occurs after an individual is alleged to have abused a child and requests a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ).
At the hearing, the Department of Family and Children Services (DFCS) through an abuse investigator, usually a caseworker or other employee for DFCS, must prove the abuse did occur. This is done by presenting evidence and testimony. The accused is granted the same opportunity to present evidence and call witnesses.
The law governing the Child Abuse Registry and the right to a hearing have been challenged since its very existence and have been declared unconstitutional at one time. As a result, the statutes have undergone multiple revisions and modifications. For example, in 2017, the law allowed an individual’s name to be automatically placed on the registry, required the individual to give notice of his desire for a hearing within 10 days, and afforded only minors the right to an attorney. Effective January 6, 2020, the law no longer applies to minors, gives an individual 30 days to request a hearing, and the accused’s name will not appear on the registry until after he or she has been afforded an opportunity to be heard on the allegations. The law does not afford an individual a right to counsel.
While a CAR investigation may stem from allegations of abuse, often there are other underlying cases. This may include criminal, family, and/or dependency cases.
For more information on CAR hearings, contact our office today and check out O.C.G.A.§§49-5-180 to 49-5-187 and GA. Dep’t of Human Services v. Addison, 304 GA 425 (2018) and White v. Ga. Dep’t of Human Services, A19A2335 (2019).
Juvenile Law Cases We Handle
- Petition for Dependency
- Defending Dependency Petitions and Allegations
- Petition for Legitimation
- Defending Delinquency Petitions
- Petition to Intervene for Visitation, Guardianship, Custody – Grandparents, Siblings, and 3rd Parties
- Defending Petition to Terminate Parental Rights
Food For Thought
Know your rights. Unbeknownst to many, parents and children often time forego their legal rights before they ever get to court. For example, no one, not even the police, can force, demand or threaten you to place your child with a friend or family member without first obtaining permission from a juvenile court judge. Similarly, your child is not obligated to talk to anyone about a criminal matter, unless subpoenaed to testify in court, even if he is a suspect. Both the parent and child have legal rights and are entitled to legal representation.
To be certain of your legal rights, you need a knowledgeable and experienced juvenile law attorney. You need Attorney Hughes.