JUVENILE COURT & PATERNITY
When a child is born out of wedlock, the legal father must be established as the birth father by signing a voluntary acknowledgment of paternity at the hospital or through a paternity court action. A paternity action is filed through the juvenile court.
Custody In Juvenile Court
The Juvenile court judge can rule on custody or visitation when a child is born out of wedlock. The Juvenile Court Judge also has the authority to enter custody and visitation orders when there are allegations of abuse and neglect.
The Department of Children’s Services (DCS) files petitions for custody through Juvenile Court. DCS can seek an emergency order without notice to the parents if there is a significant risk of harm. If they seek an order without notice to the parents, they are required to hold a hearing within three days. This hearing, however, is only a probable cause hearing (which is a very low standard of proof). The parents can seek a full hearing within 45 days. The standard of proof will be clear and convincing at the final hearing; this is a much higher standard of proof. If DCS does not meet this standard of proof, their petition is dismissed. If you are facing a DCS action, you need competent legal counsel immediately.
Any person can file a petition for custody when there is abuse or neglect. These court actions are called dependent and neglect.
When children can no longer be managed in their home, a "petition for unruly" will put them under a probation of the Juvenile Court. Even though this is a tempting resolution for teenagers that need additional authority, remember that this will put the Juvenile Court Judge in control of ordering your family into counseling, removing your computer from your home, or incarcerating your child. Seek legal advice prior to taking this action.