Family Court vs. Juvenile Court – The Basics
The legal system is complex, and often, it can be hard to understand each individual branch of such a massive entity. Two of the most commonly confused courts are juvenile and family, and many people do not know the difference between the two. They are similar in many ways: for example, they are both key parts of the court system. They have many striking differences as well. An attorney who handles family law is a specialist in his field; and one who assists minors in juvenile court works with a completely different set of rules.
Family courts have a limited amount of jurisdiction in terms of law, but they do handle virtually all cases related to the family unit. Cases frequently tried in family court include:
- Domestic violence
- Child custody
- Parental competence
Family courts most often handle child custody and divorce cases. Depending on the nature of the situation, some cases may be tried in formal proceedings instead of courtrooms.
In family court, attorneys, social workers, and members of the community may participate along with the family members involved. The court strives to resolve differences, and in many situations, mediation will be utilized instead of litigation. Family courts are also instrumental in providing families with the resources they need to solve their problems.
Unlike family court, juvenile court deals primarily with minors who have been accused of engaging in criminal behavior. Juvenile courts, unlike adult criminal courts, only utilize civil proceedings. This means that instead of an actual crime, juveniles can only be charged with delinquent acts. Juveniles who are accused of crimes are brought into court when a probation officer or prosecutor files a civil claim. Juvenile courts strive to act in the best interest of the minors they are entrusted with.
In general, any individual under the age of 18 may be tried in juvenile court. Periodically, juveniles accused of serious crimes may be tried in adult courts. However, the vast majority of juvenile cases involve petty crimes such as theft, disorderly conduct, drug abuse, and simple assault. Juvenile court is usually less formal than adult criminal court.
An Attorney You Can Trust
Here at The Law Office of Thomas M. Huguenor, we specialize in helping people navigate family court. We are San Diego child custody attorneys who also cover Del Mar and La Jolla; our extensive knowledge of California state law gives us great success. Contact us today at (858) 458-9500 for additional information.