In North Carolina, there are two very different courts that handle juvenile matters. When a juvenile commits an act that if charged as an adult would be a misdemeanor or felony, that juvenile is brought before a Judge in a Delinquency proceeding.
Is your child involved in undisciplined or delinquent proceedings? Has the Department of Social Services filed a petition alleging your child is abused, neglected or dependent?
If the juvenile admits those allegations or those allegations are proved in a hearing, that juvenile is deemed to be “delinquent.” On the other hand, if the Department of Social Services brings an action against a parent or parents of a juvenile alleging the juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependant, that parent is brought before a Judge in an Abused, Neglected, Dependency proceeding.
How are juvenile delinquency hearings different from adult criminal procedings?
Delinquency proceedings are run similarly to adult criminal courts, but with some important differences. First, every juvenile involved in the court proceeding will be assigned a juvenile court counselor. This counselor will keep in constant contact with the juvenile and her parents/guardians throughout the court proceedings and after, if the juvenile is placed on probation. Furthermore, while some juvenile matters are sealed upon the juvenile reaching the age of majority, other charges can follow the juvenile for the rest of her life. It is important to get proper representation to ensure that should your child ever be deemed delinquent by the court, that those allegations do not follow your child into adulthood.
Another difference is that should the juvenile been deemed delinquent, the court can make certain requirements of the parent or guardian, including parenting classes, cooperation with the court counselor, attendance at court proceedings, and other requirements. Knowing your rights as a parent and as a juvenile is vital. And having an attorney that can make sure your rights are protected can be the most important decision for you and your child.
What is an Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency hearing?
The other proceeding in Juvenile Court is Abuse, Neglect, and Dependency Proceedings. As discussed above, when the Department of Social Services takes out a petition alleging the parent or guardian has acted or has failed to act in a way that has resulted in their child being abused, neglected, or dependant, the Department of Social Services can bring an action to change custody of that child. In some instances, the Department of Social Services can remove the child or children from the home before the petition is even heard in front of the Judge.
Your right as a parent is paramount and is constitutionally protected. These A/N/D proceedings are highly regulated and time sensitive. There are also many different persons and agencies involved, including Judges, the Department of Social Services, a Guardian Ad Litem, attorneys, and others. This process can, in some instances, end in the termination of your rights as a parent and may result in the severance of your bond with your child. Navigating this process alone can be overwhelming and it is unlikely a parent is aware of all of his or her rights when these proceedings are started against them. You need an attorney who is not afraid to stand up for your rights as a parent and will fight to ensure everything is done to try to get your kids back.