Juvenile & Domestic Relations

When your juvenile is accused of a misstep or your family is in crisis, we’re here to help you navigate the legal system so that you can focus on those you love.

Please review our FAQs below or call us at 877.747.0697 to schedule your free consultation today.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: What is Juvenile and Domestic Relations Court?

Answer: Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts is one in which the welfare of the juvenile and the family, the safety of the community, and the protection of the rights of victims are the highest concern in the court’s proceedings. These courts are also duty bound to protect the confidentiality and privacy of juveniles coming before the court.

This court does not, however, conduct jury trials. All cases are heard by a judge.

Cases handled by this court include:

  • Juveniles (those under the age of 18) accused of traffic violations
  • Children in need of services. This includes juveniles whose behavior, conduct or condition presents or results in a serious threat to their own well-being and physical safety.
  • Children in need of supervision. This includes juveniles who are either missing from school frequently or without justification, or run away from home or residential facility.
  • Children who have been subjected to abuse or neglect. This includes juveniles who have been improperly cared for or violently handled.
  • Family or household members who have been subjected to abuse
  • Adults accused of child abuse or neglect, or of offenses against members of their own family (juvenile or adult)
  • Adults involved in disputes concerning the support, visitation, parentage or custody of a child
  • Abandonment of children
  • Foster care and entrustment agreements
  • Court-ordered rehabilitation services
  • Court consent for certain medical treatments

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Question: What should I do if I’m called to court?

Answer: All persons required to appear before the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court should arrive on time, at the time and place stated on the petition, summons, bail form or subpoena. It is important that everyone involved in a case be ready when the case is called into the courtroom. Though the wait may seem long, everyone must remain until the case is called; to do otherwise is a criminal offense.

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Question: Can I bring my kids to court?

Answer: The court does not have childcare services; therefore, the only children who should be brought to court are those children involved in the case or whose presence has been requested or required by the court, an attorney or a probation officer.

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Question: What are the rules of confidentiality in Juvenile Court?

Answer: Confidentiality is of the utmost importance in cases where children are involved. When juveniles are charges with crimes, however, the rules change somewhat.

In general, juveniles and adults charged with crimes or traffic infractions have the right to apublic trial, a right which they can give up.

If a juvenile is accused of committing an act which would be a misdemeanor if committed by an adult, the hearing is closed to the public. If a juvenile over 14 is accused of committing an act which would be a felony if committed by an adult, the hearing is open, unless the judge decides to close the hearing.

Court reports and records in juvenile cases are generally open only to those specifically permitted by law to have such access. Court officials or others who violate this confidentiality requirement are subject to criminal penalties. The court records of a juvenile over the age of 14 who has been found guilty for an act which would be a felony if committed by an adult are not confidential.

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Question: Can juveniles be detained by the police?

Answer: A juvenile may be taken into custody if he/she commits a crime in a police officer’s presence, if the police officer believes that he/she committed a felony, (a crime punishable by death or imprisonment for more than one year) or if a judge, intake officer, or clerk (when authorized by the judge) issues a detention order requiring an arresting officer to take a juvenile into custody. If not immediately released by an intake officer or magistrate, the juvenile is held in custody (detention) until being brought before a judge or court official for a detention hearing. This hearing usually must occur within 72 hours of the taking of the juvenile into custody.

While the juvenile is in a detention home or shelter placement, parents or guardians wishing to visit may do so only during permitted visiting hours, which are usually restricted. Parents or guardians should find out in advance of a visit the hours when visitation is permitted.

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Question: What is a detention hearing?

Answer: A detention hearing is not a trial but rather a hearing to determine whether a juvenile should remain in detention. Prior notice of the detention hearing must be given to the juvenile’s parent or guardian and to the juvenile if he is over 12. The juvenile has the right to be represented by a lawyer at the detention hearing, the right to remain silent concerning the accusation of delinquency and to be informed of the contents of the petition.

If the judge decides that a juvenile is to be released from detention, he also decides:

  • Who shall have custody and be responsible for the juvenile until trial.
  • Whether or not the juvenile is to be restricted or be required to do certain things until the trial

He may also require a bail bond to be posted.

Detention will be continued only if the juvenile is a threat to himself or the community, no parent or other suitable person is able and willing to supervise and take care of the juvenile, or the juvenile’s life or health would be placed in danger if he is released.

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Question: Can a juvenile be tried as an adult?

Answer: Case involving juveniles 14 years or older accused of felony charges may be certified or transferred to the Circuit Court where the juvenile would be tried as an adult. A hearing to determine whether to transfer the case cannot occur unless the juvenile’s parents or their attorney are first notified.

In order to transfer the case to Circuit Court, the judge must find probably cause to believe that the juvenile committed the act of which he is accused. During the transfer hearing, the court must determine that the juvenile’s act would have been a felony if committed by an adult and must also consider certain other factors relating to the juvenile’s history and alleged offense. The Court must also determine that the juvenile is competent to stand trial. The party challenging that presumption bears the burden of proving the juvenile is incompetent to stand trial.

If the court refuses to transfer the case to the Circuit Court, the judge who presided over the transfer hearing may try the case unless a party objects. The Commonwealth Attorney may also appeal a judge’s decision not to transfer the case if the juvenile has been charged with certain offenses.

A juvenile whose transfer has been ordered can appeal that decision within 10 days.

Statements made by the juvenile during the transfer hearing may not be used as evidence of the offense at a later court hearing but may be used later to challenge the truth of the juvenile’s testimony.

Any juvenile convicted in Circuit Court after being transferred or certified will be treated as an adult in all future criminal cases.

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Question: Are juvenile traffic cases also handled by this court?

Answer:  Yes.

Certain violations called prepayable traffic infractions may be prepaid at the clerk’s or magistrate’s office if prepayment is permitted by the chief judge of that court and if the juvenile wishes to plead guilty and not contest the charge. Call the clerk’s or magistrate’s office to find out the fine, costs and how to pay; the number will appear on the summons.

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Question: What is a preliminary hearing for adults?

Answer: When adults are accused of committing felonies against children or family members, they first go to preliminary hearings where the court determines if there is probably cause to believe that the person committed the felony of which they are accused. If probable cause is found, the case is transferred to circuit court; otherwise the case is dismissed.

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Question: What can I expect at the trial?

Answer: The actual trial in juvenile delinquency cases is called the adjudicatory hearing. It is here that the judge determines whether the facts as stated in the petition or warrant are true. The judge may temporarily postpone a case to allow all parties time to obtain a lawyer or for any other reason needed to have a fair trial. A juvenile accused of a crime has the following rights at the adjudicatory hearing:

  • The right to be represented by a lawyer to the extent provided by law.
  • The right to have witnesses to appear on their behalf.
  • The right to subpoena (to require people to come to court) witnesses to appear.
  • The right to confront and cross-examine (question) witnesses testifying against them (accusers).
  • The right against self-incrimination. (A person cannot be required to answer questions or make statements tending to show guilt and have them used against him or her.)

During the adjudicatory hearing in delinquency cases, all charges must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt before guilt is established. If the judge finds the juvenile to be guilty, the case is usually continued to another day for the judge to make a disposition decision (sentencing). The disposition decision is not always made immediately because the judge may require information about all aspects of the juvenile’s background, including prior offenses and personal history, before determining what corrective measures to take with the juvenile. Dispositions in traffic cases, however, are usually made immediately at the end of the adjudicatory hearing.

Adult criminal cases in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court generally involve offenses committed against juveniles or family members and are tried with the same standards and procedures as are applied in misdemeanor cases in General District Court.

There is no jury trial in this court. A case must be transferred or appealed to Circuit Court to obtain a jury trial.

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Question: What is disposition?

Answer: Disposition refers to the manner in which a case is settled or resolved. Juvenile court judges have a wide range of alternatives to choose from in selecting a disposition in cases involving juveniles. The judge’s choice depends greatly upon the individual’s prior record, social history, physical and mental condition, environmental circumstances at home, the facts and circumstances of the acts for which the individual was convicted, including the seriousness of the offense, and other factors which help the judge determine the best disposition for the juvenile.

If the juvenile is placed on probation under the supervision of a probation counselor, the juvenile and the juvenile’s parents must cooperate with the probation counselor and obey the conditions of probation made by the court at the time of disposition. The juvenile’s parents may also be ordered by the court to participate in counseling programs or to receive other treatment that the court may prescribe. Parents or guardians violating conditions contained in the court order may be subject to contempt of court charges; probation violations by a juvenile may result in a more severe disposition. A jail term may be imposed only if a juvenile is 14 years old or over, is convicted of committing a felony, and if the interests of the community require such restraint as determined by the judge.

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Question: Can I appeal the court’s decision?

Answer: All parties subject to a court order or judgment may appeal the decision to the Circuit Court. In order to appeal a judgment, a party to the case or the party’s attorney must note the appeal with the clerk of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court within 10 days (30 days for support cases tried under the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act) of the court’s action.

Cases appealed to the Circuit Court are reheard de novo (completely new, from the beginning). The juvenile, the Commonwealth’s Attorney, or the circuit Court judge may request a trial by jury in the Circuit Court. In hearing cases on appeal from the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court, the Circuit Court has the same power and authority as does the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court.

Pending an appeal, judgments of the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court are suspended in delinquency, local ordinance or adult cases (except support cases, preliminary child protective orders or family abuse protective orders). Bond may be required when court judgments are suspended by appeals. Appeals of support decisions do not suspend the obligation to provide support.

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Question: How does the court determine juvenile custody issues?

Answer: In cases involving issues of custody or visitation between parents regarding their juvenile, the court will make an order necessary to protect the interests of the juvenile and family.

Where a parent or guardian seeks to be relieved of the custody of any juvenile or where a public or private agency seeks to be given custody of the juvenile, the court shall grant such relief only if suitable placement for the juvenile is available, if the juvenile is in need of such placement and if placement of the juvenile outside his/her present home will not detrimentally affect the juvenile. The court will separate a juvenile from his/her parents or guardians only when the juvenile’s welfare is endangered or separation is in the interests of public safety.

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Question: Do I have recourse against my ex-spouse who isn’t keeping up with child support payments?

Answer: Under Virginia law, parents or spouses who fail in their obligations to support and maintain their dependents may be required by the court or the Division of Child Support Enforcement to provide such support.

To begin a support case, the person seeking support should contact either the Division of Child Support Enforcement (1-800-468-8894) or the local court service unit intake officer. They can guide you through the process of filing a petition.

In Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts, either a civil support case or a criminal desertion/non-support case may be filed.

In civil cases, any spouse or parent found by the court to be in arrears of their support may be ordered to make periodic payments in a manner prescribed by the court and may be required to post a performance bond.

In criminal cases, any spouse or parent found by the court to be in arrears of support payments is guilty of a misdemeanor and is subject to a fine of up to $500 and up to 12 months in jail. Persons failing to make support payments may lose their drivers or professional occupational license. In place of or in addition to paying a fine and/or being sent to jail, a judge may order the spouse or parent to make certain periodic payments in a manner prescribed by the court.

Any person receiving such an order who continues to fail to provide support in the manner ordered by the court may be jailed or be required to post a bond. The court may (and in some cases must) require that support payments be deducted by the employer from the earnings of the spouse or parent who fails to pay support.

Persons summoned to court who fail to appear will also be charged with contempt of court and are subject to immediate arrest; the support hearing will continue in their absence.

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