Frequently asked questions.
Do I have the rights to hire an attorney for my child?
Yes, every juvenile charged with an offense has a right to have a lawyer represent him/her in juvenile court. Parents often hire an attorney to represent their child. However, even if the lawyer is hired by the parent, the lawyer’s ethical obligation is to represent the child. If the parents’ desires conflict with the desires of the child, the attorney has the duty to represent the child.
Is my child required to have an attorney?
In certain cases, a juvenile may make a voluntary and knowing waiver of the right to counsel. This depends upon the age of the juvenile, the child’s education, the child’s knowledge of the nature of the charge and right to remain silent, methods used in questioning the juvenile while the case was being investigated, and whether the case presents complex legal questions. If a juvenile does not want an attorney, this should be stated in court during the arraignment. A parent does not have an absolute right to waive an attorney for their child.
If I can not afford to hire an attorney, how do I apply for an appointed attorney?
The Clerk of the Juvenile Court has application forms to apply for a court-appointed attorney. You will need to provide information about income, number of dependents, and special needs.
Who qualifies for a court appointed attorney?
In cases where a juvenile and his/her family cannot afford to hire an attorney, a representative of the court will confidentially determine whether the child qualifies as an “indigent person.” OCGA § 15-11-6(a) defines indigent person as one, who at the time of requesting counsel, is unable without undue financial hardship to provide for full payment of legal counsel and all other necessary expenses for representation. The Court follows the Federal Health & Human Services Poverty Guidelines. Even if the family is not below the income guidelines, an attorney may be appointed in appropriate cases.
Do I get to choose the appointed attorney that I want?
No, the Court assigns the attorney. Every attorney on the appointed list is experienced in juvenile court matters and highly qualified to represent juveniles.
Why does my child have both an attorney and a court appointed guardian?
In cases where the parent is the complainant, or where the parent is a witness against the child, the court is required to provide counsel and a person to represent the best interests of the child in court. Sometimes the child’s attorney can zealously represent the child and represent the child’s best interest, but sometimes there is a legal conflict between these two positions. If the child’s attorney notifies the court of a conflict, the judge will appoint another trained individual, either an attorney or a qualified non-attorney Guardian Ad Litem (some of these are citizens called CASA’s “Court Appointed Special Advocates”) to represent the child’s best interest.
If a juvenile is appointed an attorney, will the fees have to be reimbursed?
Attorneys agreeing to serve as appointed counsel are doing “pro bono” [public good], but they are reimbursed by the county for a fee of about one-third of their normal hourly fee. OCGA § 15-11-8 provides that after notice to the parents or guardian, and affording them an opportunity to be heard, the Court may order the reimbursement of reasonable expenses of appointed counsel.
What are the age limits for juvenile court?
If a child is delinquent, the maximum age will be 17 years of age. If a child is deprived, the maximum age will be 18 years of age.
What are forms of payment are accepted by the Juvenile Court?
All fees and fines can be paid to the Clerk of Court by cash, money order or certified check. A receipt will be issued for all payments.
Where do I pay fines or make restitution payments?
Payments are made at the Cashier’s window on the first floor of the Juvenile Court building. The window is staffed from 8:30 am until 5:00 pm.
Can I pay fees or fines by personal check?
No. Acceptable payments can be made in the form of cash, cashier’s check or money order. For further information on acceptable payment methods, contact the Juvenile Court, Clerk of Court’s office at 404.294.2749.
I haven't received payments from a juvenile who was ordered to pay restitution. Where can I find out if they are making payments?
Contact the Juvenile Court Accounting Division at 404.294.2778 or via email amcartagena@dekalbcountyga.gov In order to expedite the process, please have the name of the Juvenile and/or a case number.
My child has run away from home or left home without my permission. What can I do?
If your child is under 18 years of age, contact your local police department and file a missing person report, and receive a report number. You can then file a runaway complaint with the Court’s Intake Unit by providing us with the missing person report number. For additional information, please call us at 404.294.2769.
My child is disrespectful and disruptive in the home and will not listen to me. What can I do?
You can come by the Court and sign up for the C.H.I.N.S. The C.H.I.N.S. program is designed to provide a unified effort in informing & providing resources for parents with youth displaying ungovernable/unruly, domestic delinquent and/ or runaway behaviors. At completion of the orientation the parent will have the opportunity to request further services from the Probation Department.
I want to file criminal (delinquent) charges against a child. How do I do that?
If the offense occurred in DeKalb County, our Intake Unit will assist you in filing a complaint. In order to file a complaint, you must know the child’s complete name and address.
My child refuses to go to school and wants to drop out. Can the court help me?
Children under the age of 16 MUST attend school, and parents are responsible for making sure they go. If your child misses 10 or more days of school without a legal excuse, he/she is considered truant. The Juvenile Court has a CHINS (Children in Need of Services) program to assist parents experiencing everyday challenges with their youth. Click here for more information on the CHINS program. Juvenile Court also operates an onsite GED program for youth at least 16 years of age to help youth obtain their GED. Click here for more information on the GED program. In addition, the DeKalb County school system offers alternatives to traditional schools such as open campus, night school, and GED programs. Call 678.676.1200 for further information.
My child is either using drugs or has some mental health problems. Where can I get help?
The Juvenile Court offers many programs and services for children and families with drug or mental health problems. You may also contact the Community Service Board at 404.832.4646 for assistance. Click here for additional programs offered by Juvenile Court.
I am the victim (or witness) in a case. How can I find out what is going on with my case?
You can contact the District Attorney’s office at 404.294.2720 for an update.
I am financially, physically, or otherwise unable to care for my child(ren) at this time. Is there anyone who can help me?
You can contact the Division of Family and Children Services (DFCS) at 404.370.5251; they can provide you with services and assistance.

Juvenile Court Glossary

Adjudication: Like a trial; the hearing in which a judge listens to testimony and declares if the alleged charges are true.

Affidavit: Written statement of facts; the person who signs the affidavit swears an oath that the information given is true.

Allegation: A charge or claim made against someone.

Appeal: A complaint to a higher court asking to overturn the decision made by a lower court.

CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate): A specially trained community member who is selected by the judge to advocate for the best interests of the child.

Chief Judge: The judge who has primary responsibility for the administration of a court, but also decides cases. Chief judges at DeKalb Juvenile Court are appointed every two years by Superior Court judges.

Child: A person who is under 17 years of age; or a person under 21 years of age who committed an act of delinquency before reaching 17 years and who has been placed under supervision by the court or on probation to the court; or a person under 18 years who is alleged to be a deprived child. (See Georgia Code Section 15-11-2)

Child Abuse: When a parent or caretaker intentionally injures a child; when a parent or caretaker intentionally neglects or exploits a child; any sexual abuse or exploitation of a child.

Child Advocate: Attorney assigned by the judge to represent the best interests of a child; the child advocate does not work for DFACS or for either parent of the child.

Citizen Review Panel: A group of trained community members who review the progress a family is making on their case plan and report those findings to the judge.

Complaint: A formal charge or allegation made against another person.

Court Administrator: The manager of the administrative, non-judicial affairs of a court, such as budgets, personnel, and court schedules.

CPS (Child Protective Services): The section of DFCS that responds to initial complaints of possible abuse of deprivation.

Custodian: Person who has been given physical custody of a child and is required to provide for that child’s needs and safety.

Delinquency: Juvenile actions or conduct in violation fo criminal law and, in some contexts, status offenders.

Delinquent: Juvenile who has been adjudicated by a judicial officer of a juvenile court as having committed a delinquent act.

Delinquent Act: An act that is designated a crime; an act of disobeying the terms of supervision contained in a court order directed to a child who has been adjudged to have committed a delinquent act. (See Georgia Code Section 15-11-2)

Delinquent Child: A child who has committed a delinquent act and is in need of treatment or rehabilitation or supervision. (See Georgia Code Section 15-11-2)

Deprived Child: One who is without proper parental care or control, subsistence, education as required by law, or other care or control necessary for one’s physical, mental or emotional health or morals; or one who has been placed for care or adoption in violation of law; or one who has been abandoned by parents or other legal custodian; or one who is without a parent, guardian, or custodian. (See Georgia Code Section 15-11-2)

Designated Felony: A list of particularly egregious offenses that may result in incarceration of a child for up to five years. (See Georgia Code Section 15-11-37)

Detention: A place of confinement for juvenile offenders. In Georgia the places of detention are operated by the Georgia Department of Juvenile Justice.

DFCS (Division of Family & Children Services): A state agency under the Department of Human Resources that provides child protection services and case management services families.

Disposition: Hearing after the adjudication to determine where a child will live while the parents complete the case plan.

Foster Care: State licensed temporary home, group home or shelter where a child may stay during court proceedings and while the parents work on the terms of the case plan.

Guardian: Person, other than the parent, who has legal responsibility for a child.

Hearing: A trial or proceeding before a judge.


    1. – The legal authority of a court to hear and decide a case; 
    2. – The geographic area over which the court has authority to decide cases; 
    3. – The territory, subject matter, or persons over which lawful authority may be exercised by a court.

Legal Father: A man who has a legal right to be included in the upbringing and care of a child; a legal father is one of the following:

    1. – A man who is married to the mother at the time a child was conceived or born;
    2. – A man who is not married to the mother, but acknowledges paternity and legitimates the child through a court action; or administratively at the hospital.
    3. – A biological father who acknowledges paternity and marries the mother.

Note: Naming a man as the biological father on a birth certificate, merely determining paternity through a blood test or ordering him to pay child support does not necessarily make him a legal father.

Legitimation: The process in which a man acknowledges paternity and establishes a legal father-child relationship.

Mandated Reporter: A person required by law to report suspicion of a child abuse; this includes doctors, nurses, teachers, police officers, childcare providers, and others.

Mediation: Alternative to court proceeding where families try to reach solution on their own; an impartial mediator leads the session and helps the parties come to an agreement among themselves rather than having a judge decide.

Non-Reunification: A plan in which custody will not go back to the parents; in some cases, non-reunification plans may precede a termination of parental rights action.

Party: Either the petitioner or the respondent in a lawsuit. The parties to a deprivation case are DFACS, parents and the child advocate.

Permanency Hearing: A hearing after the disposition to determine what the permanent plan for the child is going to be; Federal law says this hearing must take place no later than 1 YEAR after the day a child is taken into custody.

Petition: A legal document that states the reasons the court should get involved in a matter and asks the court to take a certain action.

Petitioner: Party that is making the claim of abuse or deprivation against the parents.

Punitive: An act inflicting or intended as punishment.

Records: All deprived children, unruly children, and first offender delinquent children (except designated felons) have a right to limited confidentiality of their records. The public has access to the complaint, petition, and dispositional order of any child who has been previously adjudicated delinquent and commits a second delinquent offense, or of any child who is charged with a designated felony.

Runaway child: Can be placed in foster care home, child welfare facility, OR securely detained for as long as it takes to return child home, or to ensure the runaway child’ s presence at a scheduled court appearance (only when the child has previously failed to appear for a scheduled court appearance).

Respondent: Person against whom allegations or charges are brought.

SAAG (Special Assistant Attorney General): the lawyer who represents DFACS.

Status Offense: Status offenses are offenses that are only crimes if committed by children, such as skipping school, running away, breaking curfew, and possession or use of alcohol.

Subpoena: A legal document requiring a person to come to court; if you get a subpoena, you must come to court.

Summons: A legal document notifying you of a court case and telling you when to come to court.

Taken Into Custody: To deprive a person of liberty by legal authority. Children are not arrested, but they may be taken into custody, which is also known as being detained.

Ten Deadly Sins: Youth charged with one of the following crimes will be transferred to the Superior Court for adjudication and can be convicted as an adult. Sentence can be 10 years to life.

    • – Murder
    • – 2nd Degree Murder
    • – Voluntary Manslaughter
    • – Rape
    • – Aggravated Sodomy
    • – Aggravated Child Molestation
    • – Aggravated Sexual Battery
    • – Armed Robbery with a Firearm
    • – Aggravated Assault with a Firearm on Public Safety Officer
    • – Aggravated Battery on Public Safety Officer

TPR (Termination of Parental Rights): Legal and permanent severance of the parent-child relationship; if parental rights are terminated, the child may become eligible for adoption.

Unruly Child: A child who is in need of supervision, treatment or rehabilitation and meetings one of the following criteria:

    • – Is habitually truant from school.
    • – Is habitually disobedient of the reasonable commands of their parent/guardian/legal custodian.
    • – Has committed an offense applicable only to a child.
    •  – Without just cause and consent of parent/legal custodian deserts their place of abode.
    • – Wanders or loiters about the streets, highway, or any public place, between the hours of 12:00 Midnight and 5:00 A.M.
    • – Disobeys the terms of supervision contained in a court order which has been directed to such child, who has been adjudicated unruly.
    • – Patronizes any bar where alcoholic beverages are being sold, unaccompanied by such child’s parent/guardian/custodian, or possesses alcoholic beverages.
    • – Has committed a delinquent act and is in need of supervision, but not of treatment or rehabilitation.