Skip to main content
Iowa Judicial Branch
Main Content

Juvenile Court

Juvenile Court and Procedure

The juvenile court is a specialized court that has authority over certain cases involving the lives of children. The most common of these cases are:

  • Child in Need of Assistance (CINA) cases most typically involve abused, abandoned, or neglected children, and sometimes lead to termination of parental rights.
  • Delinquency cases involve acts that would be considered criminal acts if committed by an adult. Please note that it is not uncommon for judges to close these proceedings.

Child in Need of Assistance Proceedings

Removal—A judge may remove a child from the child’s home with or without a hearing if the state demonstrates that the child is in imminent danger. If a child is removed without a hearing, there must be a hearing within 10 days after removal.

Adjudication—An adjudication hearing is to determine if a child is in fact a child in need of assistance within the meaning of the law.

Disposition Hearing—The disposition hearing is to determine the type of services necessary to help the child and the parents improve the situation.

Review Hearings—The court will hold a review hearing every six months to review the progress of the parents, the condition of the child, and the placement of the child if the child was removed from her parents.

Termination of Parental Rights—A juvenile judge may enter an order to terminate parental rights if uniting the child and parents is not a safe option Termination of parental rights makes a child eligible for adoption by others.

Juvenile Delinquency Proceedings

Intake—This process is the preliminary screening of a complaint by a juvenile court officer to determine whether the court should take action in the case. From intake the case may proceed in one of two directions—either to informal adjustment or to the filing of a delinquency petition. If a child has been apprehended or detained by law enforcement, the matter may go straight to the filing of a petition without the intake procedure.

Informal Adjustment—Disposition by informal adjustment means the child has admitted the charge and agreed to the terms of behavior set out in a written informal adjustment agreement. If and when the child complies with the conditions of the informal adjustment, the child is released from the oversight of the juvenile court.

Delinquency Petition—The delinquency petition describes the nature of the delinquent act allegedly committed by the child. This petition is usually filed by the county attorney and it triggers formal court proceedings.

Adjudicatory Hearing—An adjudicatory hearing is to determine if the allegations in the petition are supported by evidence. If the judge finds that the child did not commit the alleged delinquent acts, the petition is dismissed and the child is no longer under the jurisdiction of the court. If the child is found to have committed the acts, the child is adjudicated a delinquent.

Disposition Hearing—At the disposition hearing the court determines the appropriate course of action for a child who has been adjudicated a delinquent. The court may place the child on probation or place the child in foster care, residential treatment or a state institution.

Waiver Hearing—Under certain circumstances a child may be tried as an adult. A juvenile judge may “waive” a child to adult court if the child is over 14 years of age, and there are no reasonable prospects to rehabilitate the child in juvenile court. If a child is sixteen or over and allegedly commits a “forcible felony”, that child is automatically waived to adult court. Once waived to adult court, the child is no longer under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and is subject to the same criminal procedures and penalties as adults.

© 2018 Iowa Judicial Branch. All Rights Reserved.