Q: How can my child become involved with the Juvenile Court?
A: If your child is under 17 years of age and commits what would be a crime for an adult, your child could be referred to the Juvenile Court. These are status offenses and are not a crime but still the youth must be accountable for these actions. If your child fails to attend school, runs away from home or fails to obey a parent's reasonable rules and instructions either the parent or the schools can refer the juvenile to the Court.
Q: Can my child quit school when they turn 16?
A: As a parent you have every right to require your children attend school until they are 18 years old. The State of Michigan's compulsory education law however only requires children to be in school until they are 16.
Q: What can I do if my child is out of my control?
A: Most children are not born out of control, their behaviors are usually reflective of family problems or parenting deficiencies. There are a number of private counselors and therapists available in the community who can address the family and individual causes and resulting behaviors. Medical doctors can also be consulted about the reasons for abnormal behavior. Anytime a juvenile is acting "out of control" substance abuse cannot be ruled out. Obtaining a substance abuse assessment from a local agency dealing with these issues is strongly recommended.
Q: What does it take to become an emancipated minor?
A: A minor is emancipated by law if:
a) The child is lawfully married.
b) The child turns 18 years of age.
c) The child is on active duty in the military.
d) A Court orders emancipation. The Probate Court, is the place to file a petition seeking emancipation.
However you must realize, in order to have an order issued, the Court must be persuaded that it is in the best interests of the child, that the child is at least 16, and that the child can manage their financial affairs and support themselves. The minor also has to demonstrate to the Court that they have a suitable place to stay.
Q: If I suspect that my child is using illegal drugs what can I do to get them tested?
A: There is no place to get children tested for free in St. Joseph County but a parent can go to a local substance abuse treatment agency and pay for a drug test or maybe your doctor can help.
Q: Am I responsible for my child after they turn seventeen years old?
A: Yes. Although in Michigan a juvenile is treated as an adult in the criminal courts at seventeen, the age of maturity is eighteen. Parents can be charged with neglect and abuse of seventeen year olds and even help be responsible for the cost of their care.
Q: Are juvenile records always "sealed" and who would have access to them?
A: Juvenile Court records consist of a public "legal" file and a private "confidential" file. By law all court notices, petitions and orders are public records unless a judge determines otherwise. Reports, evaluations, home studies, etc are not public records and are kept in a confidential file which is only open to the parties of the case.
Q: How can a Juvenile record effect a person after they become an adult?
A: Juvenile offense convictions can be used to enhance adult sentences. Convicted juvenile sex offenders have to register the same as adult offenders. Juvenile delinquency records exist until the juvenile turns thirty years old. Often employers on job applications, colleges on college applications and the military want to know about juvenile records which may disqualify a person from employment, education or military service.
Q: My child received a notice to come to Juvenile Court. What can we expect?
A: If the notice is for a preliminary hearing, there are three decisions that are required to be made in a delinquency matter. First, is there "probably cause" to be believe that a crime was committed? Second, is there "probably cause" to believe that the accused juvenile committed that offense? Third, based upon the seriousness of the crime, any threat to the community that the juvenile might pose and the parents ability to control the juvenile's behavior, whether the juvenile needs to be removed from parental care and custody and detained. At any preliminary hearing the juvenile and their parents will be completely advised of the juvenile's due process rights including the right to an attorney and a trial.
Q: What if I can't afford an attorney?
A: The parent of a juvenile or the juvenile can always ask the court for a court appointed attorney. You can expect, however, to be asked to fill out a financial disclosure document and pay back the cost of the attorney as you are able.
Q: Where do I report child abuse or neglect?
A: If you have reason to suspect that a child under the age of eighteen is suffering from abuse or neglect you should immediately contact Children's Protective Services at (269) 467-1250. There will be a person available to take your call 24 hours a day.