If you are a parent who must appear in juvenile court for the first time you may be wondering if you need to retain an attorney. Although there is no legal requirement that you retain an attorney when ordered to appear in juvenile court, a Murfreesboro family law attorney at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby explains why it is usually in your best interest to do so.
Why Might You Be Required to Appear in Juvenile Court?
As a parent, you may be required to appear in juvenile court because your child has been accused of being a juvenile offender. A juvenile offender is any juvenile who has been found by the juvenile court to have committed a delinquent offense, such as breaking the law, being unruly, or violating the state’s traffic laws.
You could also find yourself in juvenile court because of a legal issue involving you as a parent, such as:
- Child custody and visitation
- Child support
- Parentage of children whose parents are not married.
- Ending parents’ rights
- Child abuse and neglect
- Parents who do not make sure their children go to school.
Your Child Has Rights
The juvenile justice system operates very differently than the adult court system. There are different procedural rules, different evidentiary rules, and different potential consequences for a child who has been deemed a juvenile offender. Nevertheless, if your child is ordered to appear in juvenile court, it is important to understand that your child has rights, including the right to be represented by an attorney. The court will likely appoint a Guardian Ad Litem (GAL). A GAL is an attorney whose job is to represent the interests of a minor in juvenile court. While most GALs take their appointments seriously and do their best for their juvenile clients, they are often overworked and underpaid. Your child also has the right to retain the service of a family law attorney. If your child is facing serious consequences in juvenile court, you should consider this option to ensure that your child’s rights and future are protected.
You Have Rights
If you have been summoned to juvenile court to answer as a parent, you also have important rights. Like a juvenile offender, you also have the right to an attorney, and it is in your best interest to exercise this right immediately. Not only could the outcome of a juvenile court matter result in your incarceration, but it could also mean the termination of your parental rights. If your parental rights are terminated, your child may become a ward of the state and be eligible for adoption. If you have been accused of neglecting or abusing your child, the court will appoint a Court Appointed Special Advocate CASA). CASA’s are trained community volunteers appointed by the juvenile court to advocate for abused and neglected children in court. Once again, CASAs usually mean well; however, they can be overzealous which is why you need your own advocate.
Parents frequently make the mistake of appearing without an attorney in juvenile court because they fail to understand exactly what is at stake. Making matters worse is the fact that the juvenile justice system is a complex, and confidential, judicial system that can be extremely difficult to navigate without a knowledgeable guide. If you find yourself facing an appearance in juvenile court, an experienced family law attorney can intervene early on and focus on the numerous services available for parents and children instead of allowing the worst possible outcome to occur.
Contact a Murfreesboro Family Law Attorney
If you have additional questions about the juvenile justice system in Tennessee, it is important that you consult with an experienced Murfreesboro family law attorney to ensure that your rights are protected throughout the process. Contact the team at Bennett, Michael & Hornsby as soon as possible by calling 615-898-1560 to schedule your appointment.