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JUVENILE LAW and CHILD REPRESENTATION

Juvenile Law

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO ME OR MY CHILD IF SOMEONE ACCUSES ME OR A FAMILY MEMBER OF CHILD ABUSE OR NEGLECT?

There are many different aspects of Juvenile Law.  Our firm represents parents as well as minor children when there are allegations of abuse or neglect which are being pursued by the State of Missouri.  These types of action are generally initiated by someone making a “hot line” call to the Missouri Division of Children’s Services.  An investigation is conducted by a Children’s Division worker who then must make a determination as to the validity of the allegation and decide whether it is in the child’s best interest to immediately remove him/her from the home.  Thereafter the case is screened for formal court involvement.  If sufficient evidence is found, the case is pursued by filing a formal petition in the Juvenile Court.

WHAT IS THE CHILD ABUSE/NEGLECT REGISTRY?

A substantiated case of abuse or neglect by either the Missouri Division of Children’s Services or by the Juvenile Court will result in the offender’s name appearing on the Child Abuse/Neglect registry which is maintained by the State of Missouri.  This registry is available to law enforcement and possibly to potential employers. Having your name appear on the Registry can limit and/or prohibit your chances for employment in certain areas.  Thus, quick and decisive actions must be taken from the onset of this type of case to protect the rights of individuals accused of abuse or neglect.

Juvenile Delinquency

MY CHILD HAS BEEN ACCUSED OF A CRIME – WHAT HAPPENS NOW?

Often times a juvenile (under the age of 18) is suspected of committing a “crime” (felony or misdemeanor) or other related offense.  In Missouri, most of these “crimes” are pursued in Juvenile Court and not prosecuted under the general laws which apply to adults.  When this occurs, a case is opened and the juvenile will have to face the potential consequences of his/her actions.  Our law firm represents these juveniles within the Juvenile Court system to protect the juvenile’s legal rights and to assure that the State of Missouri has a valid case.  We represent juveniles at all stages of this litigation and, when necessary, will take the case to trial to make certain that every juvenile is afforded the same rights that all citizens enjoy under Missouri law and the United States Constitution.


Guardian ad Litem (GAL)

WHAT IS A GUARDIAN AD LITEM?

A Guardian ad Litem (commonly referred to as a “Guardian”) is a licensed attorney who has received specialized formal training to deal with issues involving children in the family law area.  These attorneys must complete special requirements each year and provide proof of compliance  to the Missouri Bar.  Michael Myers is a certified Guardian ad Litem who serves in the St. Louis County Family Court.

HOW DO I GET A GUARDIAN AD LITEM FOR MY CHILD?

A Guardian must be appointed by the court in family law matters which involve allegations of abuse and/or neglect.  The court may also appoint a Guardian when custody is being disputed, if there are difficulties setting up or adhering to a visitation schedule or if the parties do not agree on what is best for the minor child.  The sole responsibility of a Guardian is to represent the child’s “best interests”.  The court depends upon these Guardians to make informed and impartial recommendations regarding what is best for the child.

HOW DOES THE GUARDIAN DECIDE WHAT IS BEST FOR MY CHILD?

Generally the Guardian will approach a case in much the same way as the other attorneys involved in the case, however, a Guardian will likely meet with all parties to determine each person’s interests and goals.  The Guardian will also, when appropriate, meet with the minor child(ren) who are affected by the litigation to determine their goals and interests and to assist them through the process.  All parties must keep in mind that a Guardian is not obligated to simply advocate the minor’s wishes, but is an advocate for what he/she determines to be in the minor’s best interest.  Thus, the Guardian’s role is different than simply saying that he/she is an attorney for the minor.  As you can see, the Guardian can have significant influence in the outcome of any case to which they are assigned by the Court.