What Is a Juvenile Petition?

By Contributing Writer

A juvenile petition concerns a child under 18 years old. The petition might be used to determine custody. The petition may be regarding the child’s delinquent behavior. The petition could be for a special privilege, such as releasing the child from mandatory school attendance. A juvenile petition is in many ways the minor's version of a criminal complaint in adult cases.

Background

The juvenile court believes the child is innocent and learned antisocial behavior from adults. The juvenile court judge weighs evidence and considers the child's circumstances and orders supervision, community service and any services deemed necessary. The child's contact with the court is to be full of friendly, constructive discipline.

Juvenile Court

Juvenile courts operate without the formality of the adult court. Juvenile courts have intake, detention, probation, records, psychological, protective and volunteer services. You can make an appointment with an intake worker to respond to or file a petition.

CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate

The court appointed special advocate or CASA interviews the child and all family members concerning custody of the child. The advocate contacts the child’s school and reports on the child and all interested parties. The CASA makes a recommendation to the court in the best interest of the child.

A custody determination from the juvenile court is easier, faster and cheaper than arguing through two expensive attorneys in a contested divorce. Juvenile court personnel can draft and order "rules of parenting" to resolve any contested visitation and custody issues.

Delinquency

Delinquency, or criminal behavior of youth, is a lack of self-control and includes truancy, defiance, uncontrollable behavior or running away, which are not adult crimes. Most children learn. A small percentage become adult offenders.

Other forms of delinquency are drug problems, aggravated burglary, aggravated assault, joyriding (taking someone’s car for a ride and returning it or leaving it), or ungovernable behavior.

Unfortunately, delinquency may also include selling drugs, commission of a crime with a gun, or involvement in gang activities. These activities are felonies, even for youth, and probably will result in confinement. These activities may result in being tried as an adult.

Determination

The juvenile court judge listens to the presentation by the CASA, probation officer or juvenile court counselor and questions the child. The judge determines custody, but he usually relies on the CASA. In a criminal proceeding, the child must explain why his criminal behavior was wrong and tell the judge how he will change his behavior.

The judge can order custody or order supervision for the delinquent youth along with community service. The judge may decide that the child should be placed in protective custody or remanded to a secure school facility.

Probation Officer

The probation officer contacts the child’s school and visits the child weekly. The officer uses resources to change the life of the delinquent youth. The probation officer can order your child into a recreation program after school to make friends and be part of a team. The officer writes reports weekly of your child’s behavior to the court and usually benefits the parent.