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What is the role of juvenile courts in Virginia?

Under Virginia's judicial system, every city or county is home to a juvenile and domestic relations district court. The courts preside over a variety of cases related to juveniles, including both criminal and family law matters.

In most cases, a juvenile in the state of Virginia is defined as someone who is under the age of 18. According to Virginia court webpages, the juvenile courts hear all matters related to those under age 18, including both traffic offenses and criminal offenses. In some cases, courts may decide to try a teen as an adult, which could change the jurisdiction of the court.

In addition to standard criminal and traffic offenses, juvenile courts also preside over cases involving status offenses. Status offenses involve actions on the part of a juvenile that are only illegal because of the age of the person involve. Underage drinking, for example, is a status offense.

The juvenile and domestic relations district courts also handle matters such as child support and custody disputes. In addition, the courts hear cases regarding civil or criminal child neglect or abuse, as long as the victim of the abuse are household or family members.

Programs often administered through such courts and districts include drug treatment courts, mediation, parent education and protective order assistance. Understanding which court will hold jurisdiction over a juvenile case is essential to preparing as either the plaintiff or the defense.

The court structure across Virginia is complex, making it important to have a guide through the system. Working with someone who understands the courts and knows when to file certain items or make certain motions can vastly improve your chances at success.

Source: Virginia's Judicial System, "About Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts" Aug. 27, 2014

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