Dependency Court & Family Services

  1. Guardian Ad Litem
  2. Baby Steps Recovery Program

Title 15 of tDouglas County Georgiahe Official Code of Georgia requires that the court appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL) for all dependent children, and in certain circumstances for delinquent children and children in need of services (CHINS). The court’s GALs advocate for a child’s best interest and provide written reports with recommendations to the court and parties. Factors determining what is in a child’s best interest are statutory and are addressed in the court report. Records and information acquired by the GAL during the course of their appointment are confidential and are not disclosed except by order of the court. Douglas County Juvenile Programs has GAL’s on staff and they are a critical component of proceedings in Juvenile Court. Our GAL's have extensive experience and knowledge of child development, court procedure, mediation and case management.

Guardian Ad Litem

Dependency Court Information

Douglas County Dependency Court Information

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This information was not prepared by the court itself and is not intended to substitute for legal advice.

DOUGLAS COUNTY JUVENILE COURT


The court adjudicates dependency cases in accordance with the Official Code of Georgia Annotated Title 15, Section 11, The Juvenile Proceedings Code.  The Juvenile Court of Douglas County has jurisdiction over dependent children who reside or are present in Douglas County when the petition is filed.

The Juvenile Court does not operate to determine custody disputes between parents, grandparents or other third parties.  Those issues are in the Superior Court.

The definition of a Dependent Child:


  1.  A child who is without the proper parental care  and control, subsistence, education as   required by law, or other care or control necessary for his physical, mental, or   emotional health or morals
  2.   A child who has been placed for care or adoption in violation of the law.
  3.  A child that has been abandoned or is without his parent, guardian, or other legal     custodian.

 

 

 

Juvenile Court is a Court of Reunification


Reunification is the returning of children to the custody of their biological parent or parents, after they have been court involved. This period of time may include placement outside their family home.  In most cases, the court orders a reunification plan for the parents so that the children can return home.  A reunification plan describes the responsibilities and duties of the parents to remedy the problems that resulted in the family being court involved.  If reunification with parents is not possible, Juvenile Court will then order an appropriate permanent plan for the children’s care.

If you are requesting custody of a child through Juvenile Court you must understand the court’s involvement may result in the child being removed from your care should information suggest that you are not an appropriate placement or if you interfere with reunification              

The Juvenile Court does not operate to determine custody disputes between parents, grandparents or other third parties.  Those issues are in the Superior Court.

 

A TIMELINE OF THE COURT PROCESS


When a Complaint is filed, the Court will conduct the PRELIMINARY PROTECTIVE HEARING (PPH).  At the PPH, the Court decides if a child is in danger AND where a child should stay until the adjudicatory hearing.  After the PPH, a Dependency Petition has to be filed, or the complaint will be dismissed.  If the child is not removed from the home, a petition must be filed within 30 days.

The Court will then hold an ADJUDICATORY HEARING.  The judge listens to testimony and other evidence, decides if the facts of the case apply to law and makes a ruling about whether or not the child is dependent.  If the judge finds the child is not dependent, the case will be dismissed.

If the judge finds that a child is dependent, a DISPOSITION HEARING will be held either immediately or within 30 days thereafter.  At the DISPOSITION HEARING, the Court determines who should get temporary custody of the child.  Custody may be returned back to the parent or given to another guardian or custodian such as a relative.  DFCS may get temporary custody.  If DFCS gets temporary custody, they determine where the child is placed.

After the DISPOSITION HEARING, the Court will conduct periodic JUDICAL REVIEW HEARINGS-a hearing before the Court to review the parents progress on the case plan and determine how to proceed with the case.

The Court will conduct a PERMANENCY PLAN HEARING to determine the future permanent legal status of each child.  After the initial permanency plan hearing, a permanency plan hearing shall be held every six months during the time a child is adjudicated as a dependent child or more frequently as deemed necessary by the Court until the Court determines that the child’s permanency  plan and goals has been achieved.

 

Petitioning for Dependency

 

The petition must be in the proper venue, jurisdiction and court and be in the best interest of the child and the public.   Whenever a petition of dependency is filed, a criminal background check (for the State of Georgia) is required on all adults seventeen (17) years and older living in the home. If the Intake Officer determines the petition does not meet requirements, the petition will not be filed.  At this time, you may wish to do the following:

  1. Make a referral to the Department of Family and Children Services at 1-855=GA CHILD, (1-855-422-4453) for further investigation.
  2. If you feel the children are in a dangerous environment that would necessitate police intervention, contact the appropriate law enforcement agency.

Scales of Justice