If you have found yourself involved in the juvenile abuse and neglect court system – as a biological parent, guardian, legal custodian or a child – you need to know your rights.
This time in your life is likely scary and unfamiliar to you. Hopefully this information brings you comfort and equips you with powerful information for the courtroom.
Unfortunately Judges operate differently county by county. Although every county operates differently, your rights do not change.
“Every County operates differently, but your RIGHTS DO NOT CHANGE.
Hopefully the first time you step into juvenile abuse and neglect as a party to the case, you receive a notice of rights. This Notice sets out your rights in the juvenile proceedings.
- RIGHT to a written “notice of rights” prior to beginning the first hearing in these proceedings.
- RIGHT to be present in Court for all proceedings.
- RIGHT to be heard, including the opportunity to speak and participate in the proceedings in court.
- RIGHT to present evidence material to the proceedings in Court.
- RIGHT to cross-examine witnesses who testify in Court.
- RIGHT to examine pertinent Court files and records.
- RIGHT TO BE REPRESENTED BY A LAWYER.
- RIGHT to the appointment of a lawyer to represent any party who is financially unable to employ a lawyer. HOWEVER, you must ask the Court to appoint counsel for you and show that you are financially unable to employer a lawyer.
- RIGHT to have the State’s Attorney’s Office prove the petition.
- RIGHT to confidentiality at any hearing except that the news media and victim may be present.
- RIGHT to appeal any decision of this Court.
Look closely at those rights, numbers 7 and 8 have key information capitalized for emphasis. You MUST ask the court to appoint you an attorney if you cannot afford one, the court will not automatically do so for you.
Unfortunately, it is common for the court to wait until AFTER the initial shelter care hearing to appoint you an attorney since it is a temporary custody proceeding. You will need to be prepared to attend court without an attorney for the shelter care hearing, unless you are able to afford one.
Stay tuned for more blog posts on what to expect at shelter care and the many hearings proceeding shelter care.