Family Court Process

To help you understand the family court process, here is a guide to what happens in family court.
Young people between the age of 7 and 15 who get arrested must appear at the Department of Probation (DOP) Juvenile Operations Intake & Services office in the assigned family court building.

The first step: intake

The first step is called “intake.” An intake probation officer will ask the young person about school attendance, friends, family, and the alleged offense.
The officer will also interview parents or guardians, the arresting officer, and the complainant (also called the victim). The probation officer uses all this information to decide whether to keep the case open (in intake) or send it to court.

Intake or court?

If the case is kept open, it will probably remain in intake for 60 days. During this time, the probation officer may ask the young person to write a letter of apology. Or the officer may ask him or her to play critical thinking games that explain the juvenile justice system or show why the alleged offense is taken seriously by the court.
If the case is sent to court, it will go to the assistant corporation counsel. This is a lawyer who decides if the case should go before the judge.

Seeing the judge

If the case is sent to the judge, everyone involved in the case will get a chance to tell the judge what happened in their own words. After listening to all the facts (evidence), the judge will decide if the case has been proven.
If the case has been proven, the judge will order the probation officer to create a document called an Investigation and Report (I&R).

To complete the I&R, the probation officer will interview:

  • the young person and her parents/guardian
  • teachers to check school performance and attendance
  • friends and family members

The officer may also need to visit the young person’s home. When the report is completed, a copy of the I&R is given to the judge who will use it to make a decision in the case.

What if the judge orders “supervision?”

Supervision means the young person can stay home, but he or she must report to a supervision probation officer for regular visits for a period of six months up to two years.

The probation officer works with the young person and the family to develop an Individual Action Plan (IAP), including personal goals. The officer will then monitor behavior at school, at home and in the community. Failure to keep appointments can force the probation officer to send the case back to the judge. So, it is important for young people under supervision to keep all appointments.