The purpose of juvenile court is to protect the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of children and to help parents create a safe home for their children. Juvenile court is not a criminal court. Information from juvenile court, however, may be used in criminal court.
Juvenile court handles five kinds of cases related to children:
- Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) cases, which typically involve abused, abandoned, or neglected children and sometimes lead to termination of parental rights (TPR).
- Delinquency cases, which involve acts by a minor that would be considered criminal acts if committed by an adult.
- Serious mental impairment or substance-related disorder commitments.
- Adoption cases.
- Guardianships for minors.
There is additional information concerning these case types on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at: https://www.iowacourts.gov/iowa-courts/juvenile-court/.
For more information on juvenile court, see the Guide to Iowa’s Court System, pages 7-8, available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at: https://www.iowacourts.gov/static/static/media/cms/GuidetoIowasCourtSystem_464EFAC4887E4.pdf.
Juvenile court cases can be very complicated and have long-lasting effects. If you are involved in a juvenile case, you should talk to an attorney with experience handling juvenile court cases. If you cannot afford an attorney, you should fill out an application for a court appointed attorney available on the Iowa Judicial Branch website at:
https://www.iowacourts.gov/for-the-public/court-forms/, under Juvenile. Use form 3 or form 4 depending on the type of case.
Most juvenile records are confidential under Iowa law to protect the child. Because court staff are unable to confirm a party’s or parent’s identity over the phone, they are unable to provide information on the case. Unless your parental rights have been terminated, with proper identification you may go to the clerk of court office to get information on your child’s case.
If you are unable to attend your court hearing at the time scheduled, you may electronically file a request in writing with the court before the hearing explaining why you cannot attend and requesting a new hearing time or date. There is no guarantee that the court will approve your request.