Definitions of Terms Used in Juvenile Court

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.

Arraignment: A formal reading of the criminal charging document in the presence of the defendant to inform him or her of the charges against them.

Bail: Money or property paid to secure the release of a juvenile which acts as security for the juvenile’s upcoming court date.

Bindover: The legal term used when a Juvenile Court Judge sends a case to be heard in Superior Court.

CASA: A 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 parent’s home; it is very important that parents follow the case plan and complete every requirement of the plan; case plans are reviewed periodically by the court.

Case Manager: The person employed by DFCS 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: In Juvenile Court, anyone under the age of seventeen (17) in terms of a delinquency.

Child Attorney: The attorney assigned by the judge to represent the child’s wishes; the child attorney does not work for DFACS or for either parent of the child.

Child in Need of Services: CHINs; a child who is habitually truant or disobedient, leaves home without permission, is out past curfew or possesses alcoholic beverages.

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.

Commitment to the State: When a Judge places a child on State probation instead of Fulton County Probation.

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

Co-Perpetrators: When several minors are charged with the same crime involving the same incident.

CPS: Child Protective Services; the unit in DFACS that responds to initial complaints of possible abuse or dependency.

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

DAI: Stands for Detention Assessment Instrument which is a test that determines the risk factors associated with a child and guides in the decision as to whether a child should be detained when taken into custody by the police.

Dependent Child: A child who is not receiving proper parental care; this includes a child who is not getting proper food, is not being sent to school, or is not receiving proper medical care. A child who has been abandoned. A child who does not have a parent or guardian, or a child who is not adequately supervised.

Detention Hearing: A hearing in front of a Judge to determine if a child is released from the detention center.

Delinquent Child: A child who has committed a crime under the laws of Georgia and is in need of treatment or rehabilitation or supervision.

Designated Felony: Certain serious acts which if committed by a juvenile could result in the juvenile being sentenced to mandatory restrictive custody.

DFCS: Division of Family and Children Services; a state agency under the Department of Human Resources that provides child protection services and case management services to families.

Disposition: The hearing after the adjudication to determine who gets temporary custody of the child and where the child will live while the parents complete the case plan.

Diversion: A special unit in Juvenile Court which resolves cases prior to them being petitioned and set for trial.

Educational Neglect: An allegation that a parent is not sending a child to school.

Emancipation: Legal procedure by which a child 16 years of age can terminate the parent’s rights to custody, control, services and earnings.

Failure to Appear: FTA; Pick up order issued by a Judge for someone personally served for court who failed to appear.

Foster Care: A state licensed temporary home or group home where a child may stay during court proceedings and while the parents work on the case plan.

Guardian: A person to whom the court has given rights and responsibilities concerning the care, custody, and control of a child.

Hearing: A trial or proceeding before a judge.

Informal Adjustment: When a case is successfully resolved prior to being set for trial.

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; A biological father who acknowledges paternity and marries the mother. NOTE: Naming a man as the biological father on the birth certificate, merely determining paternity through a blood test or ordering him to pay child support does not necessarily make him a legal father.

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

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

Mediation: Alternative to court proceedings where families try to reach a 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: The people involved in the case before the court. Meaning, the State (DFCS), a child, parent, guardian, legal custodian, or other person subject to any judicial proceeding of the court.

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 one 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 ask the court to take certain action; formal document which list the facts that bring the child within the jurisdiction of Juvenile Court; a petition is filed after the complaint

Petitioner: The party that is making the claim of abuse or neglect against the parents; usually DFCS.

Protective Order: An order controlling or restraining the conduct of a person.

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 them by legitimization.

Record Seal: A process guided by the law whereby a child’s record is sealed after the case is closed so that no one can see that the child had Juvenile Court cases.

Respondent: Person against whom allegations or charges are brought.

SAAG: Special Assistant Attorney General; the lawyer who represents DFCS.

SB 440: A law which states that children charged with Murder, Voluntary Manslaughter, Rape, Aggravated Sodomy, Aggravated Child Molestation, Aggravated Sexual Battery and Armed Robbery with a Firearm will be tried as an adult in Superior Court.

Service: A general term referring to how a person is legally notified of the court proceedings against them and the date of those proceedings.

Subpoena: A legal document requiring a person to come to court.

Summons: A legal document notifying you of court case and telling you when to come to court; the petition is attached to it.

Trial Release: After being found delinquent, a child is given a chance within a few months to comply with the Judge’s order so that the case may be closed without the child being put on probation.

Truancy: An allegation that a child is not attending school.

TPR: Termination of Parental Rights; legal and permanent severance of the parent-child relationship; if parental rights are terminated, the child may be adopted.

Violation of Probation: A petition alleging that the child has violated the terms of probation.